Why the Iraq Debate Confuses Me
Over the last several days, John McCain has repeatedly argued, sometimes in the same paragraph, that the surge in Iraq has been such a great success that it makes it possible for the U.S. to withdraw some troops in victory and honor -- and that Obama is wrong to insist on withdrawing troops from Iraq because that will mean defeat and dishonor. What am I missing?
I understand McCain's frustration. He did a courageous thing last year in backing the surge when everyone told him it would doom his campaign. He stood alone in recommending the surge and persuading Bush to go for it, and it has paid off handsomely for Iraq. Now he wants credit for being right, but all he sees is adoration for Barack Obama, who was against the surge.
Let's officially give McCain his due. He was right and thankfully, Bush finally listened to him. But now it's time to move on, and this is where McCain is caught between a rock and a hard place.
A funny thing happened in
McCain stands almost alone in defying the consensus. He seems to favor a more permanent presence, but as New York Times Middle East expert Tom Friedman points out today, the Iraqis don't want a permanent presence, and
And then there is
The problem for McCain is that we can't send more troops to
It's hard to tell who is winning the public debate over this. McCain is scoring points by declaring that his plan leads to victory and honor -- two concepts that Americans are pretty strongly in favor of. He also makes a strong point in hammering Obama for refusing to admit the surge was a success.
Obama really should do that, if for no other reason than to allow the debate to move forward. In fact, he has acknowledged that the surge brought a big increase in security but says there are other factors involved (true enough) and stops short of calling it a success, perhaps because he knows he'll get attacked for flip-flopping if he does.
But even without putting the surge debate to rest, Obama has succeeded in turning this debate to the future, a future that looks beyond