Underestimating McCain

“Of the three people running for President, he’s the only one to have thought that far ahead.”

Saturday, March 8, 2008

He doesn’t speak particularly well.  He tells us we could be in Iraq forever.  He keeps referring to us as “My friends” which I find really annoying.  Foreign policy and national security, maybe, but what if anything does he know about the economy?  (And don’t think for a minute that a strong economy isn’t essential to our national security.)  Did I mention he’s old?  At 72, there’s a significantly higher probability that he’ll be a one term President which I think is a real problem for getting things done in Washington where he may well be viewed as a lame duck on day one.  (…not to be confused with our current President, “Daffy Duck.”)

So what in the world do the Democrats have to worry about?  John McCain may be right about Iraq – and about the larger issue of how to handle the threat of terrorism.

The question is not whether or not we should pull out of Iraq.  No.  The question we should be asking Senators Clinton (my personal favorite) and Obama is what do we do after we pull out?

What do we do if well armed and well funded insurgents threaten to overthrow the Iraqi government in our absence?

Even worse, suppose there’s no violence involved, but that, through its own internal political process, the leadership and composition of the Iraqi government changes, becomes fervently anti-American.  It is, after all, the right of any sovereign, democratic nation to make whatever foreign and domestic policy it deems to be in its own best interests – even if that includes forming anti-American alliances with the likes of Iran.

What if the Iraqi government finds itself unable or, more to the point, unwilling to deal with anti-American terrorist elements operating within its national borders?

What do we do if any or all of this happens, and the usual talks and sanctions fail?

Nothing? Something?  No kidding, what do we do?  You’re President of the United States.  What do you do?

You see, this isn’t a problem John McCain faces.  Senator McCain is already sure that one or all of the above are going to happen if we leave.  When you think about it, he’s the consummate executive.  He doesn’t care what’s happened up until now, not really.  He’s only concerned about what happens next, and the relative costs and benefits of pulling out versus staying put.

If we stay there, maintaining the peace as best we can, we stand to keep Iran at bay while taking advantage of our in-country position to attack terrorist elements.  (They may not have been there under Saddam Hussein, but they are now, and we need to deal with them.)  Staying buys the government and economy the time to stabilize, to mature to the point of self-sufficiency.  The downside is the loss of lives, ours and Iraqis, and that our very presence encourages anti-American sentiment in the region.

If we pull out, well then, for all intents and purposes, we’re not going back any time soon, and whatever is going to happen in Iraq and the region is going to happen without us.  Simply put, Senator McCain believes that the current costs of a continuing presence are less than the future costs if we walk.  It’s just that simple.

The only way you counter his point is to argue that none of the negative futures is going to happen.  And you don’t know that.  In fact, you don’t even believe it, do you?

Unfortunately for whoever runs against him, Senator McCain understands that it’s sometimes more practical to continue a foreign occupation, then it is to start a new one – and that this is one of those times.  I suspect a majority of American voters will agree with him – particularly if something happens to threaten our security between now and November.  Of the three people running for President, he’s the only one to have thought that far ahead.

Game, set, match, McCain.

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