Lindsey O. Graham is no John C. Calhoun.
But like Calhoun, he has earned a "war hawk" label.
He also earned praise in this space last week for political courage in daring to strive for bipartisan solutions on immigration, judicial confirmations and other divisive issues. And our senior senator earned the Republican nomination for a third term last week, winning more than 56 percent of the primary vote against six challengers to avoid a runoff.
That, however, doesn't mean Graham's always right each time he advocates, as he so often does, U.S. military action in international crises.
Then again, he sounds right about Iraq.
Well, this time, anyway.
Sunni rebel extremists gained more ground there on Monday, a day after Graham called for U.S. air strikes against them.
Graham said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must get out of office to clear the way for a new government. But he also called out President Obama for his 2011 Iraq bugout that set the stage not only for the ongoing debacle but something much worse:
"They will eventually march on Jordan and Lebanon. Our best ally in the region is the king of Jordan, and they will attack us from that part of Iraq and Syria. According to our own national director of National Intelligence [and] FBI director, the next 9/11 is coming from here."
And Graham was going on more than one network Sunday, as he so often does.
When CNN's Dana Bash asked Graham on "State of the Union" if the prospect of American now seeking help from Iran to repel the Sunni surge in Iraq made him feel "comfortable," Graham replied: "No. Hell no, it doesn't. Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad as Hitler. The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn't fall."
Gee, "not as bad as Hitler"?
At least he didn't say Iraq's plight again requires U.S. ground troops.
Here they come again?
But Graham did sound a dire theme on "Face the Nation" when he stressed the necessity of stemming the rising tide of terror in Iraq:
"If we don't, God help us, because we're next."
Fear- and war-mongering?
Or timely alarm?
Either way, when American resolve weakens, our enemies get emboldened and our friends get scared.
And when Calhoun first attained national notice as a "war hawk," he was a young U.S. House member insisting that we pick that War of 1812 fight with Britain.
Of course, South Carolinians have long flocked to back "war hawks."
They bitterly battled each other (Patriots vs. Loyalists) in the Revolutionary War. S.C. hotheads also led the South's charge into the Civil War.
First District Rep. Mendel Rivers, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, proclaimed in 1965: "I will accept nothing but total and complete victory in Vietnam."
Sen. Strom Thurmond boasted in March 1968 that we could win in Vietnam in six months if "civilian mismanagement" would stop hamstringing our military might.
Sen. Fritz Hollings once called himself a Vietnam "hawk." But over the last few decades he's grown much more wary about the costs - financial and otherwise - of U.S. military misadventures.
And even "war hawk" Calhoun, whose Marion Square statue looms over the Charleston street that bears his name, didn't go for the land-grabbing, 1846-48 Mexican War.
By then, he was a senator who had also served as secretary of war, vice president and secretary of state. With U.S. victory south of the border (in Mexico, not in Dillon) assured in early 1848, Calhoun warned:
"It has been lately urged in a very respectable quarter, that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the globe, and especially over this continent - even by force, if necessary. It is a sad delusion."
Pathway to citizenship?
The American impulse to export freedom still often seems "a sad delusion." But what about the self-preservation impulse to avert "the next 9/11"?
And before giving Calhoun too much credit for opposing the Mexican War, ponder why.
Calhoun cautioned that "to incorporate Mexico" into the U.S. would bring in a country where "more than half of its population are pure Indians, and by far the larger portion of the residue mixed blood."
And: "Ours is the government of the white man. The great misfortune of what was formerly Spanish America, is to be traced to the fatal error of placing the colored race on an equality with the white."
So see, Lindsey O. Graham truly is no John C. Calhoun.
But America does face the risk of truly fatal errors if it does too much - or not enough - about bloody conflicts in distant realms.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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