Friday, October 20, 2006

Iraq and John McCain's Sinking Star

I used to like John McCain but his inability to criticize Bush's management of the war in Iraq, even obliquely, has become ridiculous in the face of Bush's repeated blunders.

There's a reason Republicans are slipping in the polls. The American people are looking for leadership, they're looking for voices that know what they're talking about, or, at the very least, will tell it like it is.

The last thing Americans want right now are rubber stampers. McCain used to be known for being independent-minded. No longer. Ever since John McCain tied his wagon to the Bush presidency back in the spring of 2004, he makes less and less sense. But then how can McCain make sense if he has to avoid seriously contradicting what Bush says?

Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory has a post on McCain:
When pro-war advocates talk about Iraq these days, what they say is not only misguided and false, but almost always incoherent. ... ... Here is the very serious, responsible, straight-talking national security guardian John McCain, "explaining" his view of Iraq to Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about an area where we‘ve all been involved, you especially, in talking about Iraq and how we can win this war or deal with it. You‘ve called, just in the last couple of days, for 100,000 more troops on top of the 140,000 we have as a compliment there.

When I read that on the clips this morning, I went to General Barry McCaffrey, whom you know so well, and he said we‘ve got only a total of 19 brigades that we could actually put into combat right now. We have 17 committed, two of those brigades to Afghanistan, 15 brigades already in Iraq. He says we simply don‘t have the capability to sustain another 100,000 troops in Iraq. You disagree?

MCCAIN: I said we need 100,000 more ...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MCCAIN: ...members of the Marines and the Army. We need additional troops there, but I think we need to expand the Army and the Marine Corps by 100,000 people.

MATTHEWS: More recruitment.

MCCAIN: I didn‘t say we need 100,000 -- more recruitment.
Huh? I've heard McCain more or less make an argument before for additional troops. McCain isn't always clear but I keep waiting for him to explain just exactly what the heck he's talking about. McCain is so vague I suspect the White House has given him the green light to sound more hawkish than Bush who's decided to 'stay the course,' meaning no more troops, no phased withdrawal, and actually, as we all know, just more paralysis and buck passing.

Glenn Greenwald goes on to summarize the McCain interview:
So, to recap McCain's position: (1) in order to win in Iraq, we need to expand our military by 100,000 more troops; (2) we don't have anywhere near 100,000 troops to send to Iraq, and nobody suggests that we do; (3) a draft is absolutely unnecessary.

Actually, it's worse than that and McCain ought to know it. We would have trouble rounding up enough equipment for 100,000 additional troops while still satisfying our obligations elsewhere. Three years ago, we had that equipment.

At this late date, of course, even if equipment were available, and even if it were politically acceptable, a draft would almost be pointless since it would require about a year to get troops selected, trained and shipped. The reality is that time is growing short. If McCain is talking about a voluntary recruitment drive, it doesn't change much. Iraq is in a downward spiral and we all know it and there's not much to be gained by staying in Iraq except perhaps at a distance from the fighting to keep the war from spreading beyond Iraq's borders. It's increasingly up to the Iraqis to decide their own fate. Most of the fighting is now among themselves.

Now the war in Iraq was flawed for strategic reasons as well as constitutional ones but once we made the commitment and recognized the numerous blunders made (including lack of planning), it was probably still possible to send another 100,000 fully equipped troops by early fall of 2003 to help clean up the mess and in fact calls were made to do so. As I recall, McCain was not one of those voices.

Here's another point: the longer troops remain in the field (cycling in and out every six to twelve months doesn't much matter), the more discipline breaks down. We're at a point where we need to start talking seriously about rebuilding the military and bringing it back up to speed. We can probably still handle an emergency elsewhere but the longer the war in Iraq drags out, the less we're going to be in a position to handle other problems.

Then, there's the issue that nearly every country in the world knows we're tied down. Bush's war in Iraq and his repeated blunders are seriously limiting what we can do in foreign policy. John McCain's failure to recognize the situation is disturbing, to say the least.

Like Bush, John McCain is three years too late.

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