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July 13, 2008

Naturally Good News for McCain
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Sometimes the press's political judgment just boggles my mind.  The Times has a big story today about how the worsening situation in Afghanistan is forcing the Administration's hand and will likely lead to a faster drawdown out of Iraq.  Yet, somehow, despite the fact that this is exactly what Obama has been arguing for over a year and exactly what McCain has opposed the Times in its wisdom concludes that it's a political winner for...  McCain!!!

Let's be clear.  The Bush Administration and McCain are going to claim that that the withdrawals are happening because of the improved security situation in Iraq.  But for months and months, they have been arguing that the situation is too fragile in Iraq and that by withdrawing troops we risk suffering major setbacks.  What caused the sudden shift to a potentially more accelerated withdrawal?  Could it possibly be the fact that Admiral Mullen is saying he needs more troops in Afghanistan, attacks are up 40% in the volatile Eastern part of the country that borders Pakistan's tribal areas, and American troop casualties have risen dramatically?

One would think that from a political perspective this would reinforce Obama's national security argument.  From the start of the campaign he has emphasized moving our focus away from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  You know, where Al Qaeda central is currently located.  You know, the group that actually planned and executed the 9/11 attacks.  The group that the Intelligence Community believes in the process of planning future attacks against the United States.

Meanwhile McCain has been very clear about the fact that according to him Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.  He has attacked Obama for being willing to conduct air strikes against high value targets like Osama Bin Laden without Pakistani consent if we had actionable intelligence (A policy that the Bush Administration has now adopted).   And he has said some relatively silly things lately about the "improving relationship" between Karzai and the Pakistanis.  Karzai's government recently accused ISI of being involved in an assassination attempt against him.

So naturally the Times concludes

The political benefit might go more to Mr. McCain than Mr. Obama. Mr. McCain is an avid supporter of the current strategy in Iraq. Any reduction would indicate that that strategy has worked and could defuse antiwar sentiment among voters.


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