Monday, July 14, 2008

McCain and Obama on Iraq; and what's the relative worth of pride?

I attended a John McCain press conference/rally in Macon today. Of the three speakers, at least two spoke about Sen. McCain's commitment to stay in Iraq until our troops can come home with honor and/or dignity.

I understand the usefulness of such phrases as sound bites, and doing what I do for a living, I have some respect for that.

But honor and dignity are not synonyms for pride. And I'm not convinced that victory, which is hard to define in Iraq, is a prerequisite for any of the three.

Anyone here think Robert E. Lee lacked dignity or honor?

Furthermore, I'm not clear on the value of leaving Iraq with dignity, particularly weighed against the needs of the Iraqi people, our soldiers, their families, American objectives worldwide and prosperity for the world at large.

And, now, I'm going to say something really crazy: I don't see nearly the distance between John McCain and Barack Obama's Iraq policies as the campaigns would have us think exists.

Let's dismiss this notion that Sen. Obama wants to cut and run in Iraq, leaving our soldiers disgraced and freedom-loving Iraqis to fall back beneath a yoke of despotism.

And let's dismiss the notion that Sen. McCain wants a significant United States presence in Iraq for the next 100 centuries. Flip remarks aren't policy.

These men are politicians. What they're most likely to pursue is some combination of what the majority of this country wants, the right thing to do and what's best for their supporters. And if anything in this world can change, surely it's military strategy.

But if you read the two candidate's current proposals in detail, they're certainly not night and day.

This is one of them:
I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility.

And this is the other:
We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 — two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected. We would move them from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We would pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq’s stability, and commit $2 billion to a new international effort to support Iraq’s refugees.

p.s. What I don't know about Iraq could fill a warehouse. But that's a caveat whenever I open my mouth on most subjects. And it's a paraphrase from The Simpsons.


Nick said...
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Nick said...

Whoa! This is an interesting theory. A close reading of McCain's proposal keeps way more than a residual force in Iraq for years to come. The goals McCain has set before the troops come home are so vague that progress is really hard to see. Senator Obama said it best yesterday when he said that President Bush and McCain wanted more troops when violence was up, more troops when violence was down so what gives. Obama has stated that he will meet with the joint chiefs and officially change the mission "how to end the war” once he takes office. That's pretty far apart to me.