McCain: Obama Wants to Lose War
John McCain trotted out a new sound byte yesterday:
This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.
Here’s the video, which provides a little more context:
Marc Ambinder says he used the line at least twice and, indeed, has a slightly different variant on the theme.
Most of the reaction to this has come from the Left and, as one would expect, they find it “outrageous” and “appalling” and “scurrilous.” I think it’s less than that, although a decidedly poor way to advance the debate. It’s a hamhanded way of creating a memorable parallelism but one that falls flat.
Interestingly, this debate is happening simultaneously with a very much related one over Obama’s interview with Katie Couric on the success of the Surge. Couric asks him, repeatedly, whether the Surge worked and he says, in effect, that American troops have done a great job in tamping down violence but that it’s not achieving worthwhile goals.
What happens is that if we continue to put $10 billion to $12 billion a month into Iraq, if we are willing to send as many troops as we can muster continually into Iraq? There’s no doubt that that’s gonna have an impact. But it doesn’t meet our long-term strategic goal, which is to make the American people safer over the long term. If that means that we’re detracting from our efforts in Afghanistan, where conditions are deteriorating, if it means that we are distracted from going after Osama bin Laden who is still sending out audio tapes and is operating training camps where we know terrorists’ actions are being plotted.
If we have shifted away from the central front of terrorism as a consequence of enormous and continuing investments in Iraq, then that’s a poor strategic choice. And ultimately, what we’ve got to do is – we have to recognize that Iraq is just one of our … security problems. It’s not the only one.
We’ve got big problems in Afghanistan. We’ve got a significant threat in Iran. We’ve got to deal with Pakistan and the fact that there are safe havens there. Those are all the factors and all the issues that I’ve gotta take into account when I’m president of the United States.
McCain believes that Iraq is a central front, if not the central front, in the war against terrorism and that pulling out short of total victory would be to lose that war. He thinks he was right and Obama was wrong on the Surge and resents that he’s not getting more credit for that. Further, reading between the lines, I gather that he thinks Obama knows the Surge worked and thinks we can win, too, but is unwilling to change course at this stage on his signature issue: Getting us out of Iraq as soon as possible.
Tactically, the two men’s positions are much more similar than they’d have you believe. Both will reduce the number of forces in Iraq and would still have a sizable force in Iraq well beyond the sixteen month mark of their presidency. Their strategic visions, however, are starkly different: McCain wants to win a war he thinks was necessary and Obama wants to cut his losses on one he believes is a mistake.
Does Obama want to lose the war? Of course not. But, from McCain’s perspective, Obama’s plan would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.