McCain Mocks ‘Audacity of Hopelessness’ in Iraq

John McCain said today that the Middle East would be in far worse shape had we succumbed to Barack Obama’s “audacity of hopelessness.”

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks during a campaign stop at the American GI Forum Convention in Denver, Friday, July 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Republican presidential candidate John McCain, ridiculing Barack Obama for “the audacity of hopelessness” in his policies on Iraq, said Friday that the entire Middle East could have plunged into war had U.S. troops been withdrawn as his rival advocated.

Speaking to an audience of Hispanic military veterans, McCain stepped up his criticism of Obama while the Illinois senator continued his headline-grabbing tour of the Middle East and Europe. The Arizona Republican contended that Obama’s policies — he opposed sending more troops to Iraq in the “surge” that McCain supported — would have led to defeat there and in Afghanistan.

“We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right,” McCain said, a play on the title of Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope.”

Yeah, we got the joke. And it’s actually a pretty decent one. Kudos to his speechwriters.

The problem, though, is that, had we listened to Obama, we wouldn’t be in Iraq to begin with. Given public opinion, it’s going to be a tough sell that McCain’s superior judgment on the Surge trumps that.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Iraq War, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Obama is now making noise about going after Osama in Pakistan. But that is just a replay of Iraq. We no more know that Osama is in Pakistan than we knew the state of WMD in Iraq. And even if we go into Pakistan and get/don’t get Osama, then what? What would make post-invasion Pakistan any better than post-invasion Iraq? On the other hand, the mountains and nukes are likely to make it worse.

    So as far as Obama’s judgement, he seems to be a one trick pony who can’t even repeat his one trick. If Obama had been in charge, we would have been out of Iraq no later than march 2008, with no surge. The result would be AQ in control of Iraq. And worse, Obama can’t even realize that the surge was the right policy with perfect 20/20 hindsight.

  2. John425 says:

    If Obama had been alive in 1776 he’d be a Tory. ‘Nuf said.

  3. Christopher says:

    Great points, YAJ.

    Plus, as long as James is immersed in rear view mirror speculation, we can assume that if, like Obamessiah wanted, we didn’t go to Iraq, there would be many fewer skyscrapers in America today, and many more lost American lives.

    NO-bama!

  4. Anderson says:

    If Obama had been in charge, we would have been out of Iraq no later than march 2008, with no surge. The result would be AQ in control of Iraq.

    we can assume that if, like Obamessiah wanted, we didn’t go to Iraq, there would be many fewer skyscrapers in America today, and many more lost American lives.

    What is WITH you people? What on earth do you think supports these notions?

    AQI “in control” of Iraq? A few ragbag terrorists *controlling* a nation of millions?

    Staying out of Iraq, & focusing on nailing Osama and AQ, would lead to more terror attacks?

    Start making sense, folks.

  5. Triumph says:

    Start making sense, folks.

    Listen, dude, if we hadn’t invaded Iraq the entire country would be speaking Arabic right now, statues of Kim Jong Il would be in every airport in the country, and Castro would take up residency in the White House.

    B. Hussein Osama is a DEFEATOCRAT. He was against the war, hence, against freedom and pro-terror. If we vote for him, TERRORISM WILL PREVAIL. He is a MUSLIM (colored, no less) and HE GREW UP IN THE WORLD’S LARGEST MUSLIM TERROR COUNTRY.

    He is clearly going to ally us with the Chavez-Mugabe-Ken Livingston-Barry Bonds axis and freedom as we know it will cease to exist.

  6. Hal says:

    Start making sense, folks.

    <tumbleweeds blowing…>

  7. sam says:

    Looks like Triumph got ahold of the tridumberate’s list of talking points.

  8. The problem, though, is that, had we listened to Obama, we wouldn’t be in Iraq to begin with.

    But why exactly would anyone be following the foreign policy proscriptions of an obscure Illinois State Senator in 2002?

    Isn’t hindsight wonderful?

  9. steve says:

    It was Bin Laden’s goal to draw us into a protracted war in Afghanistan. Invading Iraq was just a bonus for him, a bons that the thugs he franchised there blew. We should remember that the people who tell us leaving Iraq a year ago would have meant disaster in the Middle East are the same people (shall I go dig up Kristol’s, Cheney’s, etc, quotes) who said we would be greeted as liberators. That the war would cost a max of $60 billion. That we would be out in months. Making accurate predictions in the ME is very difficult. The other side gets a vote.

    Steve

  10. Bithead says:

    It was Bin Laden’s goal to draw us into a protracted war in Afghanistan. Invading Iraq was just a bonus for him

    Given OBL’s losses, it seems you consider an ant trap a bonus…. for the ant. What was that about making sense, again?

  11. Bithead says:

    The problem, though, is that, had we listened to Obama, we wouldn’t be in Iraq to begin with

    Correct. And the outcome of THAT failure would have been catastrophic.

  12. Fence says:

    If Obama had been in charge, we would have been out of Iraq no later than march 2008, with no surge. The result would be AQ in control of Iraq.

    If Obama had been in charge — heck, had practically any other likely President from either party been in charge — we wouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place, nor would have AQ. Tough break for the Kurds and the Shia (at least those who aren’t dead now from carbombs and such) but a very good deal for America.

    The liberation I’m excited about is not of Iraq but of the Republican Party from its supporters bearing the enormous weight of trying to defend Bush’s actions. If he ate turds for breakfast would you start saying how healthy they are, and how critical it is that we not accept defeat at the hands of those who think we shouldn’t eat turds, and about how Obama’s shit-eating resume is so thin? Of course not. Well, maybe Ragshaft. Perhaps James can enlighten you on how detoxifying it feels to finally make the break and call a spade a spade?

  13. Fence says:

    Correct. And the outcome of THAT failure would have been catastrophic.

    OK, game on. How so?

  14. Bithead says:

    No.
    The balls in your court to explain how it is we’ve not been attacked again, since 9/11. I’ve yet to hear a cogent response to the question.

  15. Hal says:

    I’ve yet to hear a cogent response to the question.

    And the judges score:

    5.9
    6.0
    6.0
    5.7
    4.7

    He’s got to be disappointed with that 4.7. Apparently he used a word that isn’t in the Conservative WikiPedia and that cost him a full point from the Serbian judge.

  16. Anon says:

    Well, perhaps one reason we haven’t been attacked is because we fought/are-still-fighting a war in Afghanistan.

  17. JohnG says:

    I don’t buy this “Only Bush was stupid enough to lead us into Iraq” theory. Back in 2002, crushing Saddam was plenty popular in the US. It was only when the occupation turned sour that public opinion shifted.

  18. anjin-san says:

    Given OBL’s losses

    In Iraq, I would say he sacrificed a lot of pawns. I am not very impressed by all the “#2’s” we have bagged. #1 and the real #2 are still out there and still dangerous.

  19. anjin-san says:

    Bit,

    Why don’t you explain how invading Iraq has spared us another attack? Especially since Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 in the first place.

    One thing to keep in mind about 9/11 is that is was, to AQ, a success far beyond anything they expected. They did not have any follow up plan, and they are not interested in moving backwards. They have a history of being very patient and thinking big. If they hit us again, they want to hit us harder and with a high probability of success. Difficult to do now that we are on guard. They do not want to try and fail, which would be very hard on the legend of Bin Laden in the middle east.

    In short, they have a difficult problem trying to mount the kind of operation they would need to to make it worth their while. Does not have a damn thing to do with Iraq…

  20. hein_beeber says:

    OK, here’s one from a long time reader (and lurker):

    I’ve been reading OTB (and it’s comment-section) for… I don’t know,.. maybe three years(?) from across the Atlantic. With great interest and great pleasure. I appreciate OTB for being a (from my point of view) moderately right-leaning blog. The opinions stated by the propietors of this blog usually do not quite match mine, but it’s always interesting, what the other side thinks. And, as it happend, it sometimes actually swayed my mind towards a more… let’s say conservative point of view.

    Having said that… the Comment-Section of this Blog is becoming weird in a way that I haven’t seen in all those years reading OTB. There are two regulars (“bithead” and “Zeldorf [someting something]” I believe they are called) who always used to be rather right-wing. Currently, however, they seem to have descended into a nightmare of paranoia. I’ve seen similar on the left side of the aisle (e.g. commentary at the “Washington Monthly”, “Atrios” or diaries at Kos) around the last election. I honestly did not expect anything like that here.

    Apparently your country is in (and due) for a change of management. Is that really that bad? Why not just have the other guys have a go, and cut down on the hysteria?

  21. anjin-san says:

    hein….. almost 8 years of bush… America is getting weird

  22. steve says:

    “The balls in your court to explain how it is we’ve not been attacked again, since 9/11. I’ve yet to hear a cogent response to the question.”

    Primarily because they do not need to attack again. They wanted us in Afghanistan, and we are there. The goal is to financially break us the same way they did the USSR. Iraq was just a total bonus because they were not as well prepared in Afghanistan as they thought. They took big losses. We diverted our attention to Iraq before finishing the job in Afghanistan. Taleban finances our booming with the record poppy plantings. They have consolidated in Pakistan. AQ is also a bit isolated from other Jihadists now, especially with their adherence to takfiri. Many feel that 9/11 was a mistake, or at least that there is nothing to be gained by a similar attack.

    Iraq was also an easier place to recruit for. It has symbolism throughout the Arab world. Our total mismanagement of the first few years in Iraq made for good recruiting. They would never, IMO, have been able to build back up so quickly if we had stayed out of Iraq or handled it adequately.

    FTR, I think we would have ended up in Iraq eventually, but it should have been only after we settled Afghanistan and Pakistan. One would have hoped for a competent SOD like Gates in charge also.

    Steve

  23. Fence says:

    I don’t buy this “Only Bush was stupid enough to lead us into Iraq” theory. Back in 2002, crushing Saddam was plenty popular in the US. It was only when the occupation turned sour that public opinion shifted.

    Public opinion is as malleable as play-dough. The average American is uninformed and impulsive enough to have been persuaded in 2002 that we needed to invade the Mariana Trench. The problem was that at that moment in our history we so happened, somewhat by accident, to have a President who was one of those average Americans.

    As for the idea that the invasion of Iraq explains the lack of a terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11, it is implausible that there is a connection between the two. To protect the homeland from another 9-11, we need solid domestic security, more investment in the Nunn-Lugar effort to secure nuclear material, and probably a very long list of things that would come before invading a country thousands of miles away where no one in AQ lived. More importantly, though, we have to accept that it is not possible to fully protect ourselves from at attack at least along the lines of OKC. Instead, we have to aspire to reduce the motivations that have lead to this threat. And invading Iraq was clearly a step in the wrong direction on that most important long-term objective.

    Now one or more persons working for the current government may well deserve a lot of credit for the lack of attacks on US soil. But the only way Iraq has helped that cause is if it baited the AQ people into Iraq who otherwise would have pulled off an attack here. But to take that sort of bug-zapper approach to killing mosquitos . . . not to mention the high costs and the fact that it is breeding more mosquitos than it is killing. I feel lucky, not safer.

  24. markm says:

    “The problem, though, is that, had we listened to Obama, we wouldn’t be in Iraq to begin with.

    But why exactly would anyone be following the foreign policy proscriptions of an obscure Illinois State Senator in 2002?

    Isn’t hindsight wonderful?”

    That’s what I was thinking. And when the messia says “I opposed the war from the start”…uh, ok. Too bad you were not around to vote on it.

  25. Anon says:

    “Too bad you were not around to vote on it.”

    So anything that any candidate did or said that was not reflected in a Senate vote is irrelevant?

  26. anjin-san says:

    Primarily because they do not need to attack again. They wanted us in Afghanistan, and we are there. The goal is to financially break us the same way they did the USSR.

    An excellent point. Bin Laden is on record saying that he hope to break us financially. He is not stupid, and he he knows that inflicting a military defeat on us is not possible.

    When you look at the shape we are in financially as opposed to pre 9/11… well, its a bit scary.

  27. lunacy says:

    “So anything that any candidate did or said that was not reflected in a Senate vote is irrelevant?”

    It counts as much as lip service ever counts.

  28. markm says:

    “So anything that any candidate did or said that was not reflected in a Senate vote is irrelevant?”

    Well did you read all the earth shattering headlines of that time about the guy in Illinois that wasnt’ for the war?. No?. How about the township clerk in his district?. Irrelevant.

  29. Anderson says:

    Currently, however, they seem to have descended into a nightmare of paranoia.

    Glad it’s not just me noticing that, Hein. My most charitable guess is that it’s a psychological defense — having been so wrong in the past, and finding that reality is out of sync with your political ideology, you have to kid yourself that things would be EVEN WORSE had we, say, devoted our post-9/11 attention to wiping out al-Qaeda in general and Osama in particular.

    Along those lines, I’m reading Jane Mayer’s The Dark Side right now, and among many terrible things, one of the worst is that we tortured people with SERE methods, which themselves were patterned on Communist methods DESIGNED TO PRODUCE FALSE CONFESSIONS.

    Ponder that. Defending America is supposed to be so important that torture is okay, but in torturing our victims, we use methods that are expressly designed NOT to reveal the truth, but to confirm what the interrogators want to hear.

    Think how desperately those torturers, and their authorizing politicians, and the supporters of those politicians, have to rationalize, in order to materially distinguish themselves from admirers of Hitler and Stalin.

    It’s not a pretty sight.

  30. Hal says:

    It’s not a pretty sight.

    True, but it at least has a long history.

    The Paranoid Style in American Politics

    I’d highly recommend the collection of essays by Hofstadter of the same name.

  31. Anderson says:

    Thanks for the tip, Hal — I read some Hofstadter in college, but not that one.

    The more I think about it, the more I think that Addington & Cheney may teach us something about the nature of evil, which we tend to identify with caricatures of Hitler or Stalin, or imaginary fiends like The Joker in the newest Batflick.

    What strikes me about an Addington is that he pursues seemingly laudable goals — protecting the U.S. — but does so in what seems obviously an evil way. I personally think that Hitler believed his own b.s. about the Jews and race, and thus by his own lights had good motives.

    So how do we avoid sinking into relativism? What’s striking about Addington is not just his mistaken ideas. It’s his egotistical refusal to entertain contrary views, or to revise his opinions in the face of facts. Told by respectable lawyers within the administration that various programs broke the law, that torture was a chump’s method of interrogation, and that he was actually endangering America rather than protecting it — the man simply would not listen. He wouldn’t argue, just browbeat people into submission.

    This selfish indifference to facts and dialectic seems to me to be somewhere close to what distinguishes “evil” from misguidedness or error.

  32. Hal says:

    Anderson,

    So how do we avoid sinking into relativism?

    I think there are ways to structure the system such that these things don’t happen. Protocols to follow, for example, which ensure that every rule has been followed, but protects the secrets involved. Ways of detecting these violations without hearing “states secrets” thrown about, etc.

    Back to the previous issue…

    I think the overriding explanation, besides H’s “paranoid style”, in my mind, has always been nicely summed up in the famous paper: Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.

    It’s quite the paradox.

  33. Bruce Moomaw says:

    My dear Bithead, since al-Qaida is now comfortably ensconced in northern Pakistan, the reason it hasn’t attacked us again yet — whatever it is — obviously has absolutely nothing to do with our being in Iraq. Or, for that matter, in Afghanistan — although it’s definitely wise to keep a large US force there to prevent a-Q from scooting back across the border into Afghanistan in large numbers if the Pakistanis ever DO decide to throw it out of their Northwest Province and a-Q ever DOES decide, for its own reasons, to try to go after us again. (As for a-Q setting up large bases in Iraq in that case, we should remember — shouldn’t we? — that the Iraqi Sunnis, unlike the Pashtuns, detest it.) One would like to think that even you could figure this out.