13 February 2008

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.

From BarackObama.com:

"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.


At 4:34 AM, Anonymous Benjamin said...

It is depressing to read otherwise intelligent, well informed
commentors buying wholesale and reprinting campaign talking points. If
Iraq isn't a civil war then what is? As for the surge being a success, well the Pentagons own numbers contradict that, a report leaked last year report (pdf) indicated that attacks have gone down but casualties haven't, fewer attacks but more deadly.

The other point is that the surge hasen't achieved any of its political goals, so how exactly is it a success?

Al Qaeda is interesting, if troops leave the rest of the insurgency which is currently tolerating Al Queda under a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" logic, would kill them. For some perspective foreign fighters in Iraq are estimated around 1%.

The other point that is completely ignored in these discussions is what do Iraq people want? All the recent (and not so recent) polling indicates they want troops to leave, it is after all their country.

January 2005: 82 percent of Sunni Arabs and 69 percent of Shiites favour US withdrawal ãeither immediately or after an elected government is in place. (Zogby)
Do you support or oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq? Strongly support .......... 13% Somewhat support .......... 19% Somewhat oppose .......... 21% Strongly oppose .......... 44% (TIME - Dec 2005)

"This time, it really is a choice between victory and surrender." You haven't even defined victory.

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Benjamin

Islamic Terrorists mean for their terror tactic to grease the wheels of Islam conquering the world. If one wants to stop them, then one has to draw the line where it stands now and not give them what they want. They want America out of Iraq, that is reason enough not to oblige. The line against Islamic terror needed to be drawn when the US Embassy in Teheran was siezed. America did not do so then and it is doubtful it will find the clarity to do so now. But decide in your own mind whether you believe that Islamic terror is only a reaction to Western excess, or is simply the means by which devotees of Islam envision getting back into the game of global domination. If the latter, withdrawing without a quid pro quo would be a fatal mistake. What Obama and Clinton are promising the American people is to make that very mistake. Why did the Nazis lose WW II? They ran out of oil. If the regime in Baghdad still accepts the American presence and it went through a democratic confirmation, The United States would just be suicidal to unilaterally withdraw. Joel has exposed the lie in Barak's promises. One should add that precisely because of his popularity with the African, Arab and Muslim masses, he will be far more a competitor with the very leaders with whom he has to negotiate and it is hard to see how that will make his path easier. Why would the Iranian regime want to give Obama diplomatic victories in terms of real conflict resolution which would only undermine the Iranian leadership's internal political position? On the contrary, they will sweet talk Obama into thinking he is getting something, America will get self-absorbed, and then Revolutionary Islam might just take over all the oil before you will be able to say kaddish for a free America.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thought: Joel has shown how Barack has left wiggle room in his platform to maintain the presence in Iraq. Given what I said in my last posting about the consequences of withdrawing without a quid pro quo, I can't believe that either Hillary or Barack are going to withdraw precipitously. Their promises to the American people to withdraw from Iraq are being made to secure an election victory and will not necessarily be actioned. McCain is simply up front about it as he usually is on all issues.


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