The "100 Years of War in Iraq" Fairytale
Barack Obama And The Audacity of The Big Lie
By Dan McLaughlin Posted in 2008 | Barack Obama | Iraq | John McCain | lies — Comments (6) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
The Democrats have an Iraq problem. The war has, for some time, been broadly unpopular, and the Democrats have tended to just assume that this should translate into Democratic votes, as the Democrats have been publicly identified as the anti-war party. But reality has a way of intruding. One problem is that some of the people who are most dissatisfied with the war are those who think it hasn't been waged aggressively enough, and naturally that's the group most inclined to support John McCain, a vocal supporter of the war but also a vocal supporter of a larger troop presence in Iraq for some years now. Another problem is that being locked into a narrative of defeat runs them up against pesky reality in the form of the counterinsurgency "surge" strategy and the improvements it has made in the military and political situation in Iraq, even through inevitable challenges like the recent counterattack in Basra. A third is the poor historical track record of dovish candidates in the race for the White House. But the broader problem is simply that their candidates don't have any sort of defensible vision for how regional security and America's place in the world would be improved by a headlong retreat now.
The serious, adult solution to this is to try to lay out a vision of how America's willingness to accept defeat in Iraq would not be like the dolorous consequences of defeat in Vietnam, or other great-power defeats in history. The easy solution is just to lie about McCain's position. Guess which one they chose, especially the Obama campaign, which is committed to pretending that you can plan for the future based on everything since 2002 never happening, rather than dealing with the world as it now is? I can't possibly improve on Charles Krauthammer's explanation of how McCain's vision of a permanent base structure in Iraq has been turned into "100 years of war in Iraq":
Asked at a New Hampshire campaign stop about possibly staying in Iraq 50 years, John McCain interrupted -- "Make it a hundred" -- then offered a precise analogy to what he envisioned: "We've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so." Lest anyone think he was talking about prolonged war-fighting rather than maintaining a presence in postwar Iraq, he explained: "That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."
And lest anyone persist in thinking he was talking about war-fighting, he told his questioner: "It's fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world."
There is another analogy to the kind of benign and strategically advantageous "presence" McCain was suggesting for postwar Iraq: Kuwait. The U.S. (with allies) occupied Kuwait in 1991 and has remained there with a major military presence for 17 years. We debate dozens of foreign policy issues in this country. I've yet to hear any serious person of either party call for a pullout from Kuwait.
As Krauthammer notes, even Obama's own senior military adviser sounded the exact same tune in 2003:
The desirability of a similar presence in Iraq was obvious as long as five years ago to retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, one of Barack Obama's leading military advisers and his campaign co-chairman. During the first week of the Iraq War, McPeak (a war critic) suggested in an interview that "we'll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right." (Meaning, if we win.)
Why is that a hopeful outcome? Because maintaining a U.S. military presence in Iraq would provide regional stability, as well as cement a long-term allied relationship with the most important Arab country in the region.
As McPeak himself said about our long stay in Europe, Japan and Korea, "This is the way great powers operate."
Indeed, some of us have been arguing for years that long-term establishment of a U.S. military presence in a friendly Iraq would be one of the strategic benefits of the war. Read Krauthammer's entire column for examples of the Democrats' flagrant distortions of McCain's entirely clear explanation; some of the highlights:
-- "He (McCain) says that he is willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq" (Barack Obama, Feb. 19).
-- "We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years" (Obama, Feb. 26).
-- "He's (McCain) willing to keep this war going for 100 years" (Hillary Clinton, March 17).
A Howard Dean fundraising letter charging McCain with seeking "an endless war in Iraq." And a Democratic National Committee press release in which Dean asserts: "McCain's strategy is a war without end. ... Elect John McCain and get 100 years in Iraq."
McCain's point, which he continues to make and on which he continues to press Obama for a clear response (more here from haystack yesterday), is that even as Iraqis take more control over the security situation in their country, there will still be benefits to a U.S. presence in Iraq for precisely the same reasons as in places like German, Japan, Kuwait, and Korea. Obama seems to understand that he has gone far out on a limb, as when pressed he started babbling instead about having troops around just to do embassy security. But when the press isn't there to question him, don't bank on him dropping the "100 years of war in Iraq" line. It's just too tempting.