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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

RE: McCain and Iraq

An email takes me to task for my post about John McCain:


...I was a bit miffed to read your post today attacking McCain's position on Iraq. That's certainly fair game, but you said  that "there were plenty of people saying that troop levels were inadequate from the onset of the war, where was he? Why didn't we hear from McCain then?" This is a bit shocking to hear someone say because McCain's been one of the few war supporter's who has been calling for more troops since the early months of the war (back when the war had 60-70% support).

In November of 2003, McCain gave a lengthy speech on Iraq to the Council of Foreign Relations. He said:

The simple truth is that we do not have sufficient forces in Iraq to meet our military objectives. I said this in August, after I returned from visiting Iraq, and before the security situation deteriorated further. It is even more obviously true today. ...

It was clear during the summer that we didn't have sufficient forces to conduct counterinsurgency operations within the Sunni triangle, secure necessary facilities, guard the borders to prevent foreign jihadists from flooding across or responding to an upsurge in violence if it occurred. ...

American military commanders have acknowledged that the Iraqi resistance shows signs of being centrally planned and coordinated. Yet the number of American forces in Iraq has not increased. Given the large support tail required of such a force, it is estimated that the number of American troops on patrol in Iraq at any given time is under 30,000. This is an insufficient number of troops to even play defense, much less take the fight to our enemy and create the conditions for the lasting peace that will enable Iraqis to assume full political authority and Americans to go home. Our overall troop level in Iraq does not reflect a careful assessment of what it takes to achieve victory. It reflects the number of American forces who were in Iraq when the war ended, minus the Marines who were sent home. Simply put, there does not appear to be a strategy behind our current force levels in Iraq, other than to preserve the illusion that we have sufficient forces in place to meet our objectives.

That was on November 5th, 2003. You can check out the whole speech here. McCain has been a constant critic of this war, while at the same time continuing to believe it was the right thing to do. It's not impossible to do both.

Fair enough, though it seems the volume is loudest around elections. My point is that he should have made this point over and over until even I couldn't have missed or forgotten his opposition in the early years of the war. It should have been as evident then as it is now. And I still don't see how you can simultaneously say troop levels are inadequate for achieving victory, yet be supportive of the president. For instance:

He lavished extravagant praise on President Bush for his leadership in the war on terror, even though McCain criticized most of Bush's specific decisions, such as letting Osama bin Laden escape and invading Iraq with too few troops.

If he disagreed with the president on policy, and he thought even one person might die needlessly because of it, we should have heard more. The call for more troops is a bit disingenuous anyway since he knows it won't and can't happen. This is from a recent interview with the Financial Times:

FT: Is there any sense that your colleagues ... are prepared to think about more troops...

JMC: [T]here is not going to be any increase...

FT: You are saying there should be more troops, not a discussion about drawing down troops because the US is stretched too thin?

JMC: But that is like saying I would also like to see a mission to Mars. I just don’t think it is going to happen.

This is a political ploy. He knows there aren't enough troops available. As he says in the speech to the Council of Foreign Relations linked above, just to maintain the current effort will require people to serve extra time:

[W]e have to increase the size of the military in the long run. We just have too many commitments and too many challenges to face around the world. [T]he Pentagon is ... very reluctant, but they're going to have to face the facts and they're going to have to increase the size of the military in the long run.

In the short run, we have to depend on, and I think we can depend on, the loyalty, the patriotism, the professionalism and the outstanding qualities of these young men and women who will be required to serve an extra amount of time.

Why is he calling for a solution he believes has as much chance as "a mission to Mars"?

    Posted by on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 at 01:35 AM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (18)


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