Barack Obama, "My Plan For Iraq". July 14
I'LL take "They Come In Threes" for two-hundred, Alex.
A: Wagons, Airports, Drains.
Things that are circled? What are things that are circled?
You're never too old to learn. I just learned that. And, last week, I learned that if George McGovern had just pledged to reinstate Jim Crow and clarify that he was only bringing our boys home from Vietnam so he could send them to Cuba, or the Fulda Gap, he'd have been elected. Too bad such political wisdom wasn't available in them days, because, lemme tell ya, defeating a second Nixon term was a lot more urgent than defeating a first McCain one, because Nixon was a consummate operator, and Nixon had room to operate.
McCain won't, because we don't. This would be the real objection to Senator Obama's Op-Ed piece, which, otherwise, mostly restates his policy positions while adding details (new, to me, at least) about two brigades going directly to Afghanistan ("redeployment", in the accepted euphemism for " incremental escalation"), a "residual" force in Iraq, amorphous, of unknown permanence, no better tasked than what we have now, as well as the Senator's belief--or, at least, his hope that you believe--that there is some entity called "al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia" which may be interchangeably identified as "al-Qaeda", and so proven, by the Law of Repeated Typography, to be an arm of SPECTRE.
That last is actually not new to me; this is the man whose website promised he'd "finish the job" of eliminating al-Qaeda, and who, famously, informed Senator McCain that there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before we got there, leaving out the part about how there wasn't one afterwards, either, until we started calling it such. And all of this is in the service of the sort of Lugar-Nunn "realist" foreign policy he's already expressed his admiration for, it having been as wildly successful over the past few decades as Ronald Reagan was. Especially if you're an oil company, a military contractor, or Coca-Cola™.
(My senior Senator--and I do mean senior; he could play the part of Maverick's father in The John McCain Story--is a telling choice as Republican My Administration Would Most Like To Work With. He's a Leftover Nixonian Détente Republican, which means he was willing to make political hay demonizing the Commies, but stopped short of proposing to blow the globe to pieces on the grounds this might prove excessive in case there was anything resembling hindsight. He then voted for every Reagan neo-hardliner remilitarization package that came across his desk, while crafting his persona as a bi-partisan foreign policy expert, based on the fact that he was slightly to the right of Sam Nunn, but slightly to the left of Curtis LeMay. After Reagan defeated Communism he became so despondent he actually took the chairmanship of the Agricultural Committee for a while, but the plastic acclaim he and Nunn received for finding some way to produce a chill from the lukewarm puddle left over from the Cold War returned him to prominence. And the top Foreign Relations chair.
(Now, don't get me wrong; loose nukes in Russia are a serious issue, but not so all-consuming as to excuse ignoring our own. I just happen to be a Glass Is Half-Cracked sort of guy, and I think heaping accolades on United States Senators for doing what any sensible seventh-grader who aspires to reach the eighth would do sets the bar too low, especially when they are, in the event, actually running around checking the upholstery for smoldering cigarettes at the end of a particularly long and raucous drunken party they themselves helped plan.)
So, then. Where are we, again? We've acknowledged a fracturing of the manpower equation, and the waste of $1 trillion in a criminally misguided effort in Iraq. As a result we now propose to mostly leave, excepting an unspecified body of troops whose mission will be to help eliminate enemies of a Shi'a government, thereby, assuming all goes perfectly well (heard that one before?), assuring that responsibility for the worst foreign policy disaster in the history of the United States will not go entirely to the people who put us there for Six Months Tops. And you wanna talk about no exit strategy?
And...we pass the Savings on to You! assuming You are part of that imaginary ruling coalition of Americans who can't bear the thought of quitting a disaster cold turkey. It's on to Afghanistan, where we can come to grips, now that we understand the importance of Strategic Terminology Redeployment, with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, despite the fact that they're actually in Pakistan, which turns out to be No Biggie, because, at least as I recall, Musharraf's response to the Future President's suggestion of the Right of Hot Pursuit was, "Okey-dokey. Mint tea?"
This, again, is why a period of quadrennial political spasm would, at the very least, be no worse off for honest discussion of the issues, beyond the issues of flag veneration and platitude burnishing, I mean. We invaded Afghanistan because the religious cutthroats who ran the place in '01 wouldn't turn over bin-Laden, along with their sovereignty, by the deadline demanded by George W. Bush, which was, if I recall correctly, "Sundown". That they were a bunch of religious cutthroats did not, in fact, make this approach any more sensible. In fact, seeing the sort of experience we have in this country with people who'd rather someone die, preferably some one else, than watch their pet version of Bronze-Age Nostradamus be insulted, this country should have been the first to recognize that a suitable time frame plus a large wad of tax-free currency was the best way to solve the problem. (I do realize that the Republican party was in a particular quandry here, since there was a sizable portion of its base which was, as yet, totally unaware that it pandered to religious nutjobs in their own country, and would remain so until Schiavo.) Regardless of whether we actually intended to capture bin-Laden, a political solution was certainly an impossibility, as it was too insufficient in brand-building, not to mention the fact that Iraq was already pencilled in for Spring '03, and how would it look if we invaded it while we were in Afghanistan bargaining over pipeline naming rights? And the Afghan war has been so wildly successful that today, seven years later, no one asks why we're still there, and "redeploying" a few thousand more troops there (think it'll stop there? show of hands?) is what distinguishes the anti-war candidate from the thrill-kill war hawk.
The next President of the United States has no choice, no matter what increasingly meaningless initial comes after his name; we have no more manpower to conduct these endless face-saving exercises. We have no "options" in Afghanistan, any more than we have a "surge" which is "working" in Iraq that has changed that equation. We jumped off the bridge, with George W. Bush in command, and the best we can hope for now is that we only get wet.