Mr. McCain’s 1974 thesis, though, also revealed a welter of other emotions about his years as a prisoner of war, including a deep anger at those he considered collaborators, a tough-minded disdain for public hand-wringing about captives like himself, and a sharp impatience with the American government for failing to “explain to its people, young and old, some basic facts of its foreign policy.” But at the same time, Mr. McCain also urged that any military survival training should include lessons in what he called “the necessity to forgive.”
Mr. McCain’s paper sheds new light on the experience that first brought him national attention and remains a staple of his campaign commercials. His conclusions hint at themes of his career, like his habit of making peace with former enemies. And his arguments that the government and the military should have done more to convince the voters and the troops about the case for the war in Vietnam echo in current debates about Iraq as well.Some officers fresh from Vietnam questioned the premise of the war. “The vast majority of generals who had experience in Vietnam will tell you we should never have gone past the advisory level,” said John H. Johns, a retired Army general and a student at the college that year. But in Mr. McCain’s paper, he instead focused on the failure to sustain public support for the fight.