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July 15, 2008

Oh, So Now He Tells Us?
Posted by Patrick Barry

John McCain fancies himself an expert on national security, but looking at his policy for Afghanistan - outlined in today's NYSun - I just don't understand how he can still make that claim with a straight face.  It should be clear to anyone who follows this issue or cares about the threat that instability in Afghanistan poses to Americans, that John McCain's policy is an absolute sham.

Just a cursory look at some of his main points exposes John McCain's total lack of understanding of the challenges we face.  First, he calls for an Afghanistan surge:

"There will be a surge for Afghanistan. It will be moving combat troops in and applying the lessons from Iraq and the strategy that was successful in Iraq and taking that to Afghanistan,"

Great.  I'm glad John McCain has finally seen the light, even though progressives have been there FOR OVER SIX YEARS calling for a change in direction.  Afghanistan does need more troops, but it also needs a policy for bringing them there; it's not enough to just hope that they will arrive. Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he will redeploy troops from Iraq to confront the grave terrorist threat building in Afghanistan, but John McCain has never explicitly stated his policy. It's entirely possible that he will clarify his position, but I'm not holding my breath.

The second crux of John McCain's policy is to appoint an Afghanistan War Tsar to coordinate efforts in the country.  A War Tsar? Are you serious?  On this point, it's less that the policy is absent as it is just plain dumb.  I'm not sure if John McCain realizes this, but Afghanistan not only has a Tsar, General Lute, who coordinates war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it also has a special envoy, Kai Eide, who's tasked with coordinating ISAF efforts.   So I'm not sure what another coordinator would add besides a massive amount of confusion, even as the Pentagon is working to streamline the chain of command and consolidate operations under the ISAF.   Here John McCain's policy isn't just redundant, it is deeply harmful to U.S. strategy.   

When looking at these candidates' national security credentials, it's important to look at their actual policies, not just their rhetorical flare.  On Afghanistan, Barack Obama has been clear at every turn.  John McCain cares so little about the issue that his strategy for the country doesn't even make his website.


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