Sen. John McCain said the West must share the blame for the way in which the world is rejecting globalization, turning its back on refugees and dismissing the need to separate truth from lies.
“All of us must accept our share of the blame for this turn of events. We grew complacent. We made mistakes. At times we tried to do too much, and at others we failed to do enough,” McCain said Friday at the Munich Security Forum. “We lost touch with many of our people. We have been too slow to recognize and respond to their hardships. We need to face up to these realities, but this does not mean losing hope and retreating. That we must not do.”
The Arizona Republican addressed the annual gathering of world leaders and national security professionals at a time of unprecedented challenges facing a world order that grew out of the ashes of World War II, and growing doubt over legacy institutions’ abilities to maintain it. Russia is asserting itself on the world stage, increasingly challenging a West that is showing unprecedented willingness to adhere to traditional alliances. Waves of populism stemming from economic anxiety and globalization swept President Donald Trump to power and pushed Britain to vote to withdraw from the European Union. Germany and France face similar electoral challenges in the coming months as those nations elect new leaders.
“I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership,” McCain said. “I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend.”
McCain said he was confident Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence felt the same way. But notably absent from the hawkish senator’s speech: his party’s president. McCain didn’t mention Trump by name once.
McCain has been a staunch defender of NATO even as Trump has dismissed the alliance as obsolete.
McCain has been a frequent target for Trump, who during the campaign mocked the war hero for being held as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. The senator has spoken out against Trump’s executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program for 120 days and stopping immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. He has also expressed deep concerns over the repeated compliments Trump has payed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and potential ties between the Trump team and Moscow.
Following McCain’s speech, the conference was set to discuss topics like whether the West will survive.
“In recent years, this question would invite accusations of hyperbole and alarmism,” McCain said. “Not this year. if ever there were a time to treat this question with a deadly seriousness, it is now.”