Yes, you have heard this speech before.
On Wednesday, Sen. John McCain delivered a "major" foreign policy address, in which, as part of his defense for a continued presence of U.S troops in Iraq, he positioned himself as a "realistic idealist," someone who is acutely aware of the cost of war.
"The lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer and die," McCain told the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. "Commerce is disrupted; economies are damaged; strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. Not the valor with which it is fought nor the nobility of the cause it serves, can glorify war. Whatever gains are secured, it is loss the veteran remembers most keenly. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes the merciless reality of war. However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us... we cannot wish the war to be a better place."
It is a repackaged graph.
Six-and-a-half years earlier, McCain used the almost the exact same language to drum up popular support for military action in the greater war on terror.
"War is a miserable business," the Arizona Senator wrote in a Wall Street Journal oped in October 2001. "The lives of a nation's finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer and die. Commerce is disrupted, economies are damaged. Strategic interests shielded by years of patient statecraft are endangered as the exigencies of war and diplomacy conflict. However heady the appeal of a call to arms, however just the cause, we should still shed a tear for all that will be lost when war claims its wages from us. Shed a tear, and then get on with the business of killing our enemies as quickly as we can, and as ruthlessly as we must. There is no avoiding the war we are in today, any more than we could have avoided world war after our fleet was bombed at Pearl Harbor.... War is a miserable business. Let's get on with it."
To be sure, politicians are free and often eager to use old lines, especially those they think are persuasive. What these two, nearly identical, remarks suggest is that McCain's view of combat -- and, perhaps more importantly, its human costs -- has not really changed throughout the course of war. That is, despite five years of military operations in Iraq and more than 4,000 troop deaths, he still sees the "lives lost" and the "merciless realities" as necessary sacrifices to make.
It is a position that undoubtedly remains popular with a great number of primarily conservative voters. But it is also a sign of an unbending, almost stubborn, nature on the war that McCain's critics will certainly hold over his head during the presidential campaign.