13 February 2008 - Obama is wrong on Iraq, McCain is right
If things keep going the way they have been, Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for the Presidency. He brings great charisma and a formidable organization of energetic, devoted young volunteers. That's why most McCain supporters would rather run against Hillary--that, and the fact that the Republican base hates Hillary. But Obama lacks experience and ideas. And over the last few weeks I've become convinced that the ideas he does have are pretty bad.
"Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda."
Obama has been attacking McCain lately for wanting to keep troops in Iraq, but even he admits they might need to be there a while. That contradicts his overall policy of withdrawal. In fact, what Obama is offering is basically a surrender to the "insurgency"--now being beaten by American and Iraqi troops--while adding a few realistic-sounding allowances to make this policy more palatable. He continues selling himself as the anti-war candidate. So be it.
The presence of American soldiers in Iraq is the only reason the country has not descended into civil war. Despite Obama's defeatist attitude, the troop surge has actually worked to drastically reduce the number of people killed in Iraq--American and Iraqi, military and civilian. Obama's plan is less disastrous than Hillary Clinton's--she wants to "immediately start bringing our troops home"--but it would nonetheless reverse the gains of the past year and lead to potentially hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Withdrawing from Iraq now would also embolden Iran, which would step into the vacuum left by the U.S. and create a new client state that it would use to dominate the region. Iranian troops might even find their way, via Syria, to the Israeli border; in any case, Iran's missiles would be hundreds of miles closer to Europe and Israel. Iran would also control Iraq's oil supplies and could provoke regional Sunni-Shia confrontaions. Pressure on the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear program, or adopt democratic reforms, would be even more futile. In short, disaster.
Here, in contrast, is what John McCain had to say, in an interview in Der Spiegel (translated at Newsmax.com):
John McCain declared that as president, he would refuse to talk with Iran as long as that nation continues its nuclear weapons program.
In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, McCain said: “I think we have to punish Iran to force them to abandon their current course.”
Asked if he would be willing to talk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Republican candidate answered:
“As long as Iran continues to announce its dedication to making the state of Israel extinct and as long as the country continues to pursue the use of nuclear weapons, I will continue to say that is not an acceptable situation. I will work with other democracies in order to find incentives and punishments for the Iranians.”
Questioned about Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s call for the U.S. to withdraw troops from Iraq as soon as possible, McCain stated:
“Senator Clinton and Senator Obama will withdraw our forces from Iraq based on an arbitrary timetable designed for the sake of political expediency and which recklessly ignores the profound human calamity and dire threats to our security that would ensue.
“They will not recognize and seriously address the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear ambitions against our ally, Israel, and the entire region…”
“I intend to win the war.”
Other highlights of the Spiegel interview:
Spiegel: “Will America attempt to go it alone less frequently in the future?”
McCain: “Well, we all hope that America will be multilateral again in the future. There were times when the United States acted unilaterally, but I think we would all prefer to work in concert with our friends and allies.”
Spiegel: “To what extent do your experiences from [Vietnam] continue to influence your life today?”
McCain: “Well, obviously it was a very impactful period of my life, but my views have been shaped by my experiences and knowledge and background on national issues, of which my experience in Vietnam is just one part.
“But there are many lessons to be taken from the Vietnam War, including the Powell Doctrine, which states that if you are going to enter into a conflict, you go in with overwhelming force and get it done as quickly as possible. One of our mistakes in Iraq is that we never had enough troops to control the country after the initial military victory.”
Spiegel: “So, do you consider yourself to be a candidate without weaknesses?”
McCain: “I am a man of many failings. I make no bones about it. That is why I am such a believer in forgiveness and redemption. I have done many, many things wrong in my life. The key is to try to improve.”
There is a clear choice in this election. In 2004, John Kerry at least promised to win the war in Iraq. This time, it really is a choice between victory and surrender.