Friday, March 28, 2008

McCain's 100 Years War

Charles Krauthammer presents what he describes as A Rank Falsehood, protesting that John McCain will only keep troops in Iraq for a century or more if there is peace. Krauthammer focuses exclusively on McCain's caveat:
Make it a hundred. ... We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as American, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. It’s fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day.
Krauthammer suggests that as McCain did not commit to endless war where people are being killed, he can only be referencing a state of peace where "maintaining a U.S. military presence in Iraq would provide regional stability, as well as cement a long-term allied relationship with the most important Arab country in the region."

Here's the problem. There's no path from Point A to Point B. Let's grant McCain the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he truly only wants U.S. troops to remain indefinitely if Iraq becomes peaceful and stable, to protect it from possible attack from... Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, er, let's say Iran. You know, the Shiite nation next door to Iraq that has no contemporary history of aggressive warfare against its neighbors, and which sometimes seems to be on friendlier terms with the government of Iraq than we are. If that's truly what McCain is proposing he needs to answer two questions:
  • How will we transform Iraq into the country we want it to be?
  • How many years do we have to remain in Iraq before we may conclude that it's not possible?
The problem is, he has no answer for the first question. And there's every reason to believe that his answer to the second would still be "Make it a hundred."

Then there's the question of whether he even appreciates what our troops are doing in Iraq. It's not like Kuwait or North Korea, where the troop presence deters a potentially hostile neighbor. It's not like Japan, where military bases primarily serve to extend our global reach while also helping to secure the defense of a stable ally. It's not even what he pretends later in his answer, that Al Qaeda training camps have been set up all over Iraq and we have to stay indefinitely to prevent a massive Al Qaeda presence and resurgence. Before we invaded, Iraq did a very good job of that without our help, and by all accounts foreign fighters are a small part of our problem. (Well, at least in this context McCain's not arguing that the Al Qaeda training camps are in Iran.)

It's been almost three months since McCain made the statement. I have yet to hear him contend that he was misunderstood. I don't recall hearing him even try to answer the implicit question, which was not "How long do we stay in Iraq if everything comes up roses," but was, "How long do we stay in Iraq in the absence of political progress and national reconciliation, or in the hope that a stable, central government will emerge." Or to put it in McCain's terms, how long do we stay if Americans are "being injured or harmed or wounded or killed"? A cavil that "the surge is working" doesn't answer that question. Let's hear some concrete goals and benchmarks, and a specific number of years.


  1. The guys at RBA do a nice analysis of what McCain really said about 100-years in Iraq. The democrats are just trying to take a small soundbite to try and sink McCain without understanding the full argument. What they don't realize is that the American public is not going to trust cut-and-run dems when it comes to national security and foreign policy.

  2. Taking a sound bite, then distorting and exaggerating it? So you're accusing them of acting like the McCain camp? I guess that's politics.

    But you're wrong about one thing, and it's a big one. Unless and until McCain explains how long he's willing to stay in Iraq despite the continued loss of American lives, it's fair to assume he would give the same answer. I am perfectly willing to take him at his word, if and when he gives it - but you and I both know the most likely reason he won't clarify his comment, and it's not because the Democratic candidates are incorrect in their inference.

    In any event, as somebody suggested, it's 100% accurate to say "McCain would be happy to have the U.S. military in Iraq for a century or more."


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