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July 25, 2008

What John McCain Doesn't Understand About the Surge
Posted by Michael Cohen

As I mentioned earlier, John McCain has suddenly found a new political message - Barack Obama cares more about winning a campaign then he does about winning a war. And what is his basis for an accusation that borders on traitorous - Obama refuses to acknowledge the success of the surge. Here's what Obama has to say about success and the surge:

The same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true. . . Iraq’s leaders have failed to invest tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues in rebuilding their own country, and they have not reached the political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge.

This is a key argument that Democrats have made for months now. Well let's go back and see John McCain had to say about this in January 2007.

There is agreement among most observers that the problems plaguing Iraq require a political solution. We all agree with that.  But it is also a lesson of history that unless you have security, security is a necessary precondition for political progress and economic development. . . first you have to come in and establish a secure environment, and then economic and political development can take place. 

There has been no time in history that without a secure environment, the rule of law and all the other necessities for the construction of a democracy, is possible.  Until the government and its coalition allies can provide safety for the population, the Iraqi people will increasingly turn to extra-governmental forces, especially Sunni and Shia militias.  Only when the government has monopoly on the legitimate use of force, unless authority have meaning, and only when its authority has meaning, can political activity have the results we seek. 

The presence of additional coalition forces would give the Iraqi government the ability to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own:  Impose its rule throughout the country. In bringing security to Iraq, and chiefly to Baghdad, our forces would give the government a fighting chance to pursue reconciliation. 

While McCain acknowledges that Iraqis have made political process even he does not go so far as to argue that political reconciliation has been achieved. Again, let's look at 2007 McCain's criteria for surge success:

By controlling the violence, we can pave the way for a political settlement.  Once the government wields greater authority, however, Iraqi leaders must take significant steps on their own.  These include a commitment to go after the militias, a reconciliation process for insurgents and Baathists, a more equitable distribution of government resources, provincial elections that would bring Sunnis and the government, and a large increase in employment-generating economic projects. 

Some of these things have clearly happened (going after the militias in Basra, a process for provincial elections etc) but many have not - most debilitating has been the failure to pass an  oil law, increase government budgets for reconstruction etc.

In fact, McCain's argument against the withdrawal of troops from Iraq is based on statements from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and General Petraeus that "Sen. Obama's dates for withdrawal would be very dangerous and we could lose everything that we've won."

Senator McCain can't have it both ways. He can't argue on the one hand that "Anyone, any rational observer who observes Iraq knows that the surge has succeeded. It just has," when he has posited his support for the surge on the pursuit of "political reconciliation," which his own statements acknowledge has not occurred and is fragile enough to fall apart if we leave.

Now McCain might believe we need to stay in order to consolidate these gains; and Obama thinks we should leave in order to provide leverage for real political reconciliation. But that is a policy difference and one that should be debated on the campaign trail. For McCain to argue that Obama's motivation is strictly political is not only unseemly but it's just wrong.



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regardless of who is correct about the surge the fact remains that at a time of crisis Obama voted against what proved to be a Unreal threat of WMD's. McCain voted to go to war Obama did not. we would not be in this mess to begin with if McCain didn't vote to go to War with Iraq. Ok Saddam was a bad guy. Bad guys are a dime a dozen. but as a consequence possibly a half a million Iraq's are dead maybe more we are getting into the same or more deaths than Saddam ever caused ( i cant get reliable figures on how many deaths are attributable to Saddam the range is across the board). Anyhow the point is that John McCain voted to send our men and women into combet on the Pretense of imminent threat of WMD's that were never found or never existed. Either way we have unstablized an entire region as a result. It was relatively stable at the time of attack. I wish that John McCain would admit that he was wrong about the decision to go to war in the first place. If he cant or wont do that then I cant in good faith vote for him. he is likely to repeat the past mistakes he has made if he were elected president.

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