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.

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. duckspeaker says:

    I don’t understand how otherwise intellectually honest folks are saying that “the Surge worked” as if this was indisputable common knowledge.

    The escalation of troops was one factor among many, including the Anbar Awakening and Sadr’s truce. Iraq’s issues are complex, and can’t be so easily boiled down to “the Surge worked,” “Mission Accomplished”, or “Iraq over, we won.”

    Seems as though one side is for the dumbing down of the War on Terror and another side is actually trusting the American people to navigate through the true complexities of the issue. I’m not sure which strategy is worse…

  2. OBH 11-22-06 “Given the deteriorating situation it is clear at this point that we cannot through putting in more troops or maintaining the presence that we have expect that somehow the situation will improve.”

    OBH Today — “There might have been improvement without our military”.

    Yes, he wants to lose the war, and he will go to extremes states of plausiblity to not give the military credit for winning it. He has put all his chips on the surge failing, and it has been a spectacular success. Ask Katie C., today finally she reported the overwhelmingly positive numbers.

  3. Bithead says:

    Anbar Awakening and Sadr’s truce

    Those things happened BECAUSE of the surge.

  4. duckspeaker says:

    Those things happened BECAUSE of the surge.

    Factually incorrect and logically absurd.

    The Anbar Awakening was founded in September 2006, before the troop Surge was even announced in January 2007.

    Further, most of the Surge brigades were deployed to Baghdad–how would these additional forces impact the Awakening in Anbar?

  5. sam says:

    @Bithead

    Anbar Awakening and Sadr’s truce

    Those things happened BECAUSE of the surge.

    As I posted on another forum, with a slight change:

    I guess Bithead doesn’t read NRO:

    Frederick W. Kagan
    National Review Online
    September 3, 2007 5:00 PM

    The Gettysburg of This War

    The “Anbar Awakening” happened before the “surge” and independently of it, and will continue whether or not U.S. forces remain.

  6. Hal says:

    roflmao! It’s a great day when I haven’t even taken my first sip of coffee and I see that Dr. Bit is getting pwned for spouting off another self refuting talking point. Pretty clear where he gets his authoritative information from.

    Going to be hard to beat that one, but I’m sure Dr. B will give it the old college try.

  7. Michael says:

    He thinks he was right and Obama was wrong on the Surge and resents that he’s not getting more credit for that.

    He needs to be very careful not to be thought of as whining (a phrase his campaign already has to fight off). Once late-night comedians start depicting him as a whining old man, his ability to attach criticism to Obama will be seriously hampered.

  8. Bithead says:

    So, Sadr’s laying down his arms and scooting his fat backside back to Iran had nothing to do with there being more troops on the way than he could possibly handle.

    Right. Got it.

    Tell me about the rabbits, too, OK?

    The “Anbar Awakening” happened before the “surge” and independently of it, and will continue whether or not U.S. forces remain.

    Kahgen was wrong, as I said at the time, and remains so.

    The Awakening, per se’ will continue only if the Iraqis have a proper defense, wherever that comes from. Barring that, the Taliban will be in control and will crush such awakening as might otherwise have flourished.

    The good news is that increasingly now, Iraqis are stepping up to defend themselves. But their being able to do it on their own won’t be for a while yet. And when Kagan made the statement it wasn’t even THAT good.

  9. Michael says:

    The Taliban?

  10. anjin-san says:

    But, from McCain’s perspective, Obama’s plan would snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Of course, from McCain’s perspective, walking thru Baghdad surrounded by elite marines, wearing a Kevlar vest and having attack helicopters overhead providing cover is the same as strolling thru a market in Indiana…

  11. sam says:

    The Awakening, per se’ will continue only if the Iraqis have a proper defense, wherever that comes from. Barring that, the Taliban will be in control and will crush such awakening as might otherwise have flourished.

    Uh, I wasn’t aware the Taliban are in Iraq. You know, Bit, with your ready-fire-aim MO for posting, your credibility is going down faster than a $20 hooker.

  12. Michael says:

    Uh, I wasn’t aware the Taliban are in Iraq.

    They must have crossed over the Iraq-Pakistan border.

    (sorry, couldn’t resist)

  13. Anderson says:

    Haven’t y’all read Dr. Bit’s article on the Battle of the Bulge, where German morale was broken by the future atomic bombing of Hiroshima?

    *Endless* scope for new historical discoveries, once you start reading causality the Dr. Bit way!

  14. Hal says:

    I see Dr. B is doubling down. The man does not disappoint, that’s for sure.

    In any event, Elrod’s post on The Moderate Voice on the subject of this post was quite good: McCain’s Desperation and the Return of the Politics of Rove

    If John McCain is trying to alienate Independents and galvanize Democrats then he is doing a fine job of it with this new tactic. If he is trying to win an election, he might want to take a breather, let Obama have his day overseas, and go after him next week. Because right now, not only is Barack Obama clearing a major hurdle on the way to the White House, he is making John McCain look petulant and out of control.

    Which echo’s Michael’s comment about the danger of McCain being pigeon holed as a whiny old man. The rest of Elrod’s post is excellent.

    I’ve been wondering if McCain’s cozy relationship with the press wouldn’t be a liability in the end. As someone said – can’t remember who – “Whom the Press wishes to destroy, the first make unaccountable”.

    Given CBS’ editing of McCain’s surge gaff in the broadcast of the interview to make it look like he wasn’t humiliating himself like Dr. B, I’d say that McCain has had one too many favors done for him. Rather than helping him, I think they’re doing him a vast disservice and he just gladly keeps digging the hole deeper and deeper.

  15. c. wagener says:

    The Anbar Awakening Council and its leader in the fall of 2006, Sheikh Abdul Sattar, worked closely with the Americans and pled for additional resources.

    The Surge is an application of the succsessful strategy in Anbar to the rest of the country and required additional troops. The Surge and the Anbar Awakening cannot be logically divorced.

  16. Hal says:

    The Surge and the Anbar Awakening cannot be logically divorced

    Okay, let’s just accept this at face value for the moment. The issue isn’t whether the two are linked. The issue is one of cause and effect. McCain – and the hilarious Dr. B. – claim that the surge is responsible for the Anbar awakening – i.e. that there is a cause and effect relationship where the surge is the cause and the Anbar awakening is the effect.

    A claim that is trivially proven false.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Actually, this rather desperate tack by McCain looks to be good news for Democrats.

    Obama is handling himself well overseas and clearing an important bar. McCain finds himself forced to campaign in a reactive (and somewhat hysterical) manner.

  18. Wayne says:

    Can anyone give an example of a statement by Obama wanting to win the war in Iraq?

    He has stated many times he doesn’t considered Iraq a central front and that it is a distraction. Also that he will withdraw troops in a hard timeline regardless. He had at times stated a strategy similar to Bush and McCain’s but then will turn around the next minute and restate he will withdraw troops regardless of the situation.

    If the MSM was doing their jobs they would ask “if the situation in Iraq gets worst will he or will he not stop the withdrawal and reintroduce more troops?” and get a straight answer instead of letting him spin.

  19. Derrick says:

    The Surge is an application of the succsessful strategy in Anbar to the rest of the country and required additional troops. The Surge and the Anbar Awakening cannot be logically divorced.

    C,

    This is the problem with attributing everything to “The Surge”©. The Anbar Awakening wasn’t due to an overwhelming or even substantial increase in troops but to a change in strategy from rooting out the terrorists to a counter-insurgency practice of maintaining security, bribing local officials and siding with one side over the other. The Surge was not an atypical counter-insurgency strategy but one predicated on sheer volume. The fact that officers began using different counter-insurgency tactics was a big part of the success of the Surge, but was due more to us eventually learning our lesson in dealing with the Iraqi’s and not just The Surge as it was envisioned.

    The decrease in violence is due to a number of factors, one of which is The Surge, but to act as though it by itself was the Key to Viccccttttory is foolish. As others have stated, without Sadr’s ceasefire, the mass segregation of Sunni’s and Shia’s to their side of the street, the mass exodus and genocide of Sunni’s and counter-insurgency tactics, The Surge doesn’t work.

  20. andrew says:

    The media/Democrats have always wanted us to lose and haven’t even tried to hide it. Giving just enough funding for a mandatory withdrawal before victory is attained is called a retreat. McCain is exactly correct to call Obama out on this.

  21. Hal says:

    The media/Democrats have always wanted us to lose

    I still find it breathtaking the ease in which serious charges of treason are thrown about by many of those on the right – in the case of McCain, the titular head of the Republican party.

    My, and it’s only July. Can’t wait for this campaign to progress. Perhaps next we’ll hear about cannibalism, and bestiality as the core values of the Democrats – both practiced with relish by Obama.

  22. Michael says:

    Can anyone give an example of a statement by Obama wanting to win the war in Iraq?

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Story?id=5417331&page=1

    When asked if he is committed to winning the war in Iraq, Obama said, “I don’t think we have any choice. We have to win the broader war against terror that threatens America and its interests. I think that Iraq is one front on that war, but I think the central front is in Afghanistan and in the border regions of Pakistan.”

    Giving just enough funding for a mandatory withdrawal before victory is attained is called a retreat.

    If you can’t define an attainable victory, the only possible outcomes are retreat or defeat. Unless somebody defines an attainable victory, they are necessarily advocating for one or the other.

  23. Bithead says:

    See my response to Alex’s post.

  24. andrew says:

    “I still find it breathtaking the ease in which serious charges of treason are thrown about by many of those on the right – in the case of McCain, the titular head of the Republican party.”

    I find it breathtaking that a political party would hitch their political fortunes to a 3rd rate fascist insurgency.

  25. Hal says:

    I find it breathtaking that a political party would hitch their political fortunes to a 3rd rate fascist insurgency.

    Ah, doubling down on the treason with charges of collusion with the enemy.

    Top marks.

  26. Bithead says:

    The Taliban?

    Either the group or their equivalant, in terms of dedication to Sharia law. The name hardly matters since the adherents of the ideas involved tend to float from group to group, as one falls and the other acscends. And Taliban idology hasn’ exactly een a static thing, either. We are, as has been noted elsewhere, dealing, after all, with the Pan-Arabism of BinLaden, who has a history of connections with them.

    I have no doubt their idology or some slight alteration of it would spread given the conditions I described.

  27. Sh*thead says:

    Without the Surge, Obama would never have been elected Senator in the first place, or even born.

  28. Hal says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to do a blog post on the world o’ B. Kind of like those distorted maps of the world as seen through the eyes of Parisians, those in NY City, etc. It’d be hilarious.

  29. Sh*thead says:

    Also, Sunni=Shia, and the Taliban and Iranians are loverz.

  30. Michael says:

    We are, as has been noted elsewhere, dealing, after all, with the Pan-Arabism of BinLaden, who has a history of connections with them.

    Only the Taliban weren’t Arabic, they were Pashtun. Ignorance of the enemy is perhaps the most dangerous trait you can have during war.

  31. Our Paul says:

    Before I make my comments, a suggestion to my fellow correspondents. I recommend a spending a few moments savoring Paul Graham’s essay “How to Disagree”. It is elegant, and succinct.

    Having read it more than once, I have been able to find only two criticisms. A sentence or two as to when to ignore a comment or phrase so as not to get distracted from the central issue would have been helpful. A short paragraph excoriating those who take over a blog thread to vent their spleen, engage in private vendettas, or deviate from the topic at hand would have been a gift to those who like to quote, and a stern rod to those who engage in such nefarious activities.

    That said, I will address Dr. Joyner.

    Nice continuation to yesterdays post on “Winning Wars”, but as you subtly point out today:

    ” 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.”

    Thus, the issue is not the mythical “Victory in Iraq”, but what exactly is this “War on Terror”.

    Others more sage than I have pointed out that terrorism is a tactic and neither guns, torture, Predator air strikes, or rendition / assassination programs will cure us of this ill. The French after all won their “War on Terror” in Algiers, only to lose the country, and several generations of Algerians three years latter.

    McCain’s comments on Iraq will satisfy those who get intoxicated by testosterone and white and black hat cowboy sagas, but rest assured, the longer we stay, the worse it will get…

    Full Disclosure: The Avatar “Our Paul” has no relationship to Paul Graham

  32. andrew says:

    “Ah, doubling down on the treason with charges of collusion with the enemy.

    Top marks.”

    Where are the charges of collusion? You just bet on the wrong side because of your wishful thinking.

  33. Hal says:

    Where are the charges of collusion?

    “hitch their political fortunes to a 3rd rate fascist insurgency.”

    You didn’t say it was happenstance.

  34. Wayne says:

    “When asked if he is committed to winning the war in Iraq, Obama said, “I don’t think we have any choice. We have to win the broader war against terror””

    A statement just made two days ago with plenty of lawyer or political wiggle room. Also Obama now admitting that Iraq is one front doesn’t mean he is dedicated to winning that front. Often one has to sacrifice one front to shore up another.

    Like many politicians Obama is good at making political vague statements that could be taken many ways. Make him answer the question “if the situation in Iraq gets worst will he or will he not stop the withdrawal and reintroduce more troops?” and don’t allow him to spin.

  35. Wayne says:

    “If you can’t define an attainable victory, the only possible outcomes are retreat or defeat. Unless somebody defines an attainable victory, they are necessarily advocating for one or the other.”

    The first sentence is wrong on many levels. Also victory has been defined by the right with attainable goals while the left definition of victory has always contained unattainable goals. By the left standard no one has ever won a war.

  36. anjin-san says:

    The name hardly matters

    Actually, it does.

    It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.

    Sun Tzu
    The Art of War

  37. Hal says:

    Also victory has been defined by the right with attainable goals

    Care to actually provide a link or inline them here in a comment. Us poor liberals can’t seem to find these apparently commonly known victory conditions complete with attainable goals

  38. Michael says:

    A statement just made two days ago with plenty of lawyer or political wiggle room.

    I didn’t realize your request had time and location constraints on it. Perhaps you should ask more specific questions if you’re looking for more specific answers.

    Make him answer the question “if the situation in Iraq gets worst will he or will he not stop the withdrawal and reintroduce more troops?” and don’t allow him to spin.

    Worse how? Again, if you want a specific answer, you have to ask specific questions.

  39. Michael says:

    The first sentence is wrong on many levels.

    Okay, what other options are there in a conflict besides win, lose and draw?

    Also victory has been defined by the right with attainable goals while the left definition of victory has always contained unattainable goals. By the left standard no one has ever won a war.

    Please, list those attainable goals, and tell us how they can be attained though military presence.

  40. Artful Rodger says:

    Derrick,

    You couldn’t be more correct. The complexity of the jigsaw puzzle that is Iraq is getting munged down into platitudes like the surge and winning and losing. The troop escalation is but a piece in that puzzle. There are so many activities at play which you have identified – but the Sadr truce and the bribing of local Sunni chieftans (many of whom were actively engaging our troops) – well, that all represents a move to dare I say “appease” our enemies. But it has achieved the desired result in the lowering of violence committed upon our soldiers. Now political progress, that’s something much trickier.

    But if we are “winning” (notice people who use that word don’t ever define what “winning” this war actually means), when do we get to draw down. Oh wait, the real goal is to never leave, is it? What if we are asked to leave and we don’t? I guess then we actually have a real occupation then. We will give them their freedom and they will like goshdarnit!

  41. Bithead says:

    Actually, it does.

    Nope. Because our enemy runs under many names. Or hadn’t you noticed?

  42. anjin-san says:

    One thing I am having a hard time with when the right discusses the surge is the treatment of it as some sort of brilliant move, which it is not.

    Rather it is the rectification of one of Bush’s gross blunders at the start of the war, namely not sending enough troops to control the country once Saddam had been defeated (an outcome which was never in doubt).

    The surge was a good tactical response to a grave mistake made earlier. It was not Napoleon at Austerlitz or Robert E. Lee maneuvering thru up and down the Shenandoah like quicksilver.

  43. Wayne says:

    “Please, list those attainable goals,”

    They have been rehash in previous threads about as many times as torture and aggressive interrogations. If your that interest look them up. A few are listed below.

    “If you can’t define an attainable victory, the only possible outcomes are retreat or defeat” is not equal to “Okay, what other options are there in a conflict besides win, lose and draw?”

    It is possible to obtain victory without ever defining it and sometime’s without even knowing it. For example, I police officer chases me down a dirt road for speeding. He looses me. I may not have known that he was chasing me. I would still be victorious in at least one sense. I had not defined it prior either yet achieved it.

    War and world politics are more complicated but some of the same principle hold true. Also some of what is achieved (some could be considered victories others not) is not known until much further down the road.

    “win, lose and draw?”
    If you are going by that standard then someone who won the most would be declared the winner right? Therefore anyone that said we have won would be correct since we surely haven’t lost and it is not a draw either?

    Three attainable goals
    1. Get rid of terrorist safe havens in Iraq and Afghanistan
    2. Throw Saddam Hussein out of power
    3. Establish a stable Iraq more friendly toward the U.S.

  44. Wayne says:

    Oh a few of the left unattainable goals
    1. No violence in Iraq (we can’t even do that in the U.S.)
    2. No casualties
    3. Make everyone love us

  45. Michael says:

    Nope. Because our enemy runs under many names. Or hadn’t you noticed?

    That doesn’t mean the names don’t matter.

  46. Michael says:

    If you are going by that standard then someone who won the most would be declared the winner right?

    No, the winner is someone who achieves their goals.

    1. Get rid of terrorist safe havens in Iraq and Afghanistan
    All of them, or just most of them? Which terrorists? How do we identify and “get rid of” them?

    2. Throw Saddam Hussein out of power
    Accomplished, check.

    3. Establish a stable Iraq more friendly toward the U.S.
    Nebulous, “stable” and “friendly” are not well defined. Either provide a testable description, or provide an analogous nation that conforms to them which we can compare against Iraq.

    You have only one clearly defined, verifiable goal, and it’s been met.

  47. anjin-san says:

    Nope. Because our enemy runs under many names. Or hadn’t you noticed?

    bit you can spin your ignorant statements all you want. But you cannot change their nature…

    Ignorance regarding the people we were fighting was one of the things that got us into trouble there. History repeats itself.

    I think we can all easily picture bit going all mushroom cloud if Obama had made such an inexcusable mistake and then tried to hide behind “names don’t matter”.

    Let me bring up an old cliche “words mean things”.

  48. c. wagener says:

    Derrick and Hal,

    I agree the Surge didn’t start the Anbar Awakening, the awakening’s tactics were seen as a success and applied elsewhere. I would define the surge as changed tactics and more troops. More troops were necessary for the “hold” of clear and hold. I’m certainly not alone in this, Pretreous describes it the same way.

    Here’s the thing. Do you find it a little curious that the folks that declared the war lost in the first place now say it was inevitable that we would win since the fall of 2006?

    Also, Hal, and I seriously don’t mean this to be insulting, what are you doing? Write an obit for yourself as you would like it to be. Does it involve arguing with a guy on the Internet that goes by Bithead? Between my posts I was sailing of SF bay. You spent it pissed off.

  49. Wayne says:

    “No, the winner is someone who achieves their goals.”

    So the ones who don’t achieve their goals are losers?

    1. Preferably all but most of them would suffice. “get rid of” means they no longer exist either because they are dead or they no longer have the will to continue. Again 100% is not expected. They may have camps in Iraq but they are no longer safe.
    2. Nice that you acknowledge that.
    3. Agreed that many goals and words are not well defined. That is the nature of the world. Example with any nation when France wanted to improve it relationship with the U.S. there were no hard-line measurements to determine when this was done. However they knew when it was getting better and when it was getting worst. Does that mean a Nation shouldn’t have a goal of improving relations with other countries?

    I would settle for a relationship along the line of Egypt even though that is far from perfect. Turkey would be much better.

    If we lift today and Iraq remains roughly the way it is today I would consider us victorious overall. If it fell apart then I would say we lift in defeat.

    Now I have define this many times but the lefties tends to demand goals and plans to do this yet never give attainable goals and plans themselves. They seem to want to declare defeat regardless of the facts. I believe much of it is because it would be a political defeat for them.

  50. Hal says:

    c. wagener,

    Do you find it a little curious that the folks that declared the war lost in the first place

    I dispute the fact that the democrats said the war was lost “in the first place”. We won the war in 2003. End of story.

    What’s been after has been occupation. There was no WMD, no AQ. Then we had a *Sunni* insurgency (which everyone on the right was telling me didn’t exist at the time). Then AQ got involved. Then we had Shiitte v Sunni ethnic cleansing. The the AQ outstayed their welcome and the ethnic cleansing was largely accomplished.

    The left and especially the ‘radical’ left has been saying that we were doing nothing more than refereeing a civil war – we were. Now that civil war is largely over. The sovereign country wants us out and we should get out.

    What’s the problem? We already won the war long ago. The “victory conditions” are ex post facto ponies y’all keep making up. Withdrawing our forces isn’t “losing” any more than going home after the football game is won is “losing”.

    If y’all want to keep on framing going home after victory has long since been won as “losing”, then go ahead. If y’all want to overstay your welcome and create permanent bases to strike at Iran, then I think you’re insane and that the Iraqis will really, really hate that idea.

    Also, Hal, and I seriously don’t mean this to be insulting, what are you doing? Write an obit for yourself as you would like it to be.

    Dude, what a classic concern troll you are.

  51. Xenos says:

    But if we are “winning” (notice people who use that word don’t ever define what “winning” this war actually means), when do we get to draw down. Oh wait, the real goal is to never leave, is it? What if we are asked to leave and we don’t? I guess then we actually have a real occupation then. We will give them their freedom and they will like goshdarnit!

    You can no longer get away with admitting you seek to establish an empire, so we get these weird modern things like permanent “surges”, which are not escalations, the success or failure of which allow you to set up a network of permanent bases against the popular will of Iraq, without it being an occupation.

    When leaving = losing, and staying permanently = winning, and winning furthermore = your resource extraction corporations getting exclusive control over the oil in the occupied country, you might as well conclude that McCain is running for Emperor of Mesopotamia. The post of President of the US is just for shits and giggles.

  52. Michael says:

    1. Preferably all but most of them would suffice. “get rid of” means they no longer exist either because they are dead or they no longer have the will to continue. Again 100% is not expected. They may have camps in Iraq but they are no longer safe

    Okay, but how do we identify how many there are so we know what “most of them” actually means? How do we identify them to know when we’ve killed “most of them”, or alternatively how do we measure their will to continue? Are any of these prerequisites attainable?

    3. Agreed that many goals and words are not well defined. That is the nature of the world. Example with any nation when France wanted to improve it relationship with the U.S. there were no hard-line measurements to determine when this was done. However they knew when it was getting better and when it was getting worst. Does that mean a Nation shouldn’t have a goal of improving relations with other countries?

    It’s a fine goal, but it sucks as a prerequisite. Like you said, we have no test to tell us when it has been accomplished.

    I would settle for a relationship along the line of Egypt even though that is far from perfect. Turkey would be much better.

    Fair enough, I’d say the Maliki government is at least that friendly, wouldn’t you? Does your goal of “friendly” require a guarantee that future administrations will maintain that friendliness? Would Egypt and Turkey also be good measures for “stable” in your goal?

  53. Wayne says:

    I agree defining victory as if we stay or go is foolish. I prefer to state goals in what will be ultimately helpful for the U.S. I have posted many specifics on what I think needs to be done.

    What is ironic is that troop reduction could very well be done within 16 months of the next president taking office but this does not mean Obama was right in his assessments only he got lucky on the timing. A reduction because the situation is right is the right approach but Obama said he would have done it regardless of the situation isn’t the right approach. If Obama stated a plan that would have improve the situation enough to be able to draw down that would have been different but he didn’t.

    Permanent bases similar to what we have in Germany would be nice but has little to do with “winning”. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

    Yes we don’t want to overstay our welcome but we don’t want to leave too soon and let another dictator take control. It is going be a tough call.

  54. Wayne says:

    Michael
    I do enjoy my discussions with you.

    You are making me bring up my prairie dog example again. Back in the days and I know it still holds true for those that deal with them. I may have not known how many prairie dogs there were, how fast they were breeding, or even how many I was killing. I knew if I was killing them or not. I knew of fields where they were safe. I knew who to pressure to change that. I usually knew if the situation was improving or not. There were many things that I knew without knowing it all. We sure didn’t throw up all hands and say it pointless to battle them. If we did we would have been overrun with prairie dogs. Now the animal right people want to put them on the endanger species list and it much tougher to find a field to shot them at.

    Yes it is hard to have hard defined prerequisite. It is more of a judgment call which is why we need a President with good judgments. We can’t expect them to be perfect but hopefully decent.

    The Maliki government is friendly and no I don’t believe in guarantees. However I not comfortable enough for a complete withdraw. It is not like if we don’t like the results of leaving we can do a do over. I think next year we will have some significant drawdown. We do need to have a five to ten year military base plans after that with some government reforms condition on leaving.

  55. Asp says:

    McCain is very comfortable accusing rivals of placing personal political gain ahead of the national interest; he repeatedly hurled this charge against Bill Clinton.

  56. Michael says:

    I may have not known how many prairie dogs there were, how fast they were breeding, or even how many I was killing. I knew if I was killing them or not. I knew of fields where they were safe. I knew who to pressure to change that. I usually knew if the situation was improving or not.

    But did you have another goal that required the elimination of the prairie dogs before you could start? In Iraq, if we are going to make our withdraw wait until “victory”, then we need to have a clearly defined, and definitively testable definition of “victory”. We don’t want there to be any disagreement about whether of not “victory” was achieved.

    In WW2, “victory” meant unconditional surrender of Axis forces. There could be no disagreement over whether that goal was achieved at any given time, it either was or it wasn’t, there was no room for debate. Nobody ever asked “Did we already win?” after Normandy. Nor did anybody ask after Japan signed their surrender on the Missouri.

    We do need to have a five to ten year military base plans after that with some government reforms condition on leaving.

    Given our existing bases in KSA, extended range of our aircraft and munitions, and our much improved logistics, does the justification used for bases in Germany and Japan still hold true in Iraq?

  57. Mandy says:

    Gosh, I guess you though Hillary’s remark that she was hanging around the primary in case somebody shot Obama was just fine, also, huh? But anyone who believes that war can be waged against “terroism” obviously does not uhnderstand proper use of language,

  58. Grewgills says:

    Wayne,
    If your preferred method of prairie dog removal meant larger breeding populations of prairie dogs in adjacent fields* it would be self defeating. If it additionally inspired more support for prairie dogs by your neighbors the situation would be worse.

    * increases exceeding extermination

  59. Bithead says:

    bit you can spin your ignorant statements all you want. But you cannot change their nature…

    I opted to leave the spinning to your hands some time ago.

    I think we can all easily picture bit going all mushroom cloud if Obama had made such an inexcusable mistake and then tried to hide behind “names don’t matter”.

    If that were true, don’t you think I’d have made the most of the gaffe rich environment that Obama himself has so gerously provided us?

    The fact was and remains the names do not matter. What does matter is the ideas and ideals involved, which do not change.

    As an example: “New Democrat” certainly is a name, but since the ideas and ideals behind it have not moved away from the tired old liberalism, the new name is meaningless.

  60. Michael says:

    The fact was and remains the names do not matter. What does matter is the ideas and ideals involved, which do not change.

    Names are self-identification, which is a very useful tool in any divide and conquer strategy. The ideas and ideals, too, are quite different between the separate identity groups. Even Al Qaeda and the Taliban have differences that can be understood and exploited, and the differences between them an Arab nationalists or Shiite theocracies is huge. If we can’t or won’t differentiate these groups, then any action we decide to take will likely harm one group and help two others.

  61. anjin-san says:

    The fact was and remains the names do not matter

    I see. If they don’t look like us, just start shooting at them. Gotcha.

  62. Wayne says:

    “In WW2, “victory” meant unconditional surrender of Axis forces.”

    Today the left and MSM went ballistic when Bush had a mission accomplish sign after overthrowing Iraq. Iraqi military and government surrender. Just like WWII there was much to do after their surrender. Many of our troops came home but many stayed for security reasons.

    The 5 to 10 base agreement needs to be done more for Iraqi security and to prevent the government from sliding back into a dictatorship. The benefit we receive from it is just icing on the cake.

    When the situation on the ground is right we can withdraw our troops. We don’t need a declaration of victory besides the left will never let us anyway.

    The idea is not to have or declare a perfect world but to make it better. To strive for perfection is fine. To allow the world to decline because it isn’t perfect is not.

    Grewgills

    “meant larger breeding populations of prairie dogs in adjacent fields”

    That is exactly what happened. However since we killed them they didn’t gain much headway in our fields. They move to our neighbors’ field. Neighbors quickly killed them, waited until the dogs destroyed enough of their fields then killed them, or went out of business in which case others bought it and killed them. The one exception was when we had some tree huggers buy a plot of land for the prairie dogs to live. They go unmolested until they cross the border. They are contained and it is much better to have a couple hundred acres of them than couple million acres.

    To have done nothing would have destroyed our land and economy.

  63. Grewgills says:

    Wayne,
    To make myself more clear. If your preferred method of killing prairie dogs meant more creating more prairie dogs than you killed and also resulted in turning more of your neighbors into ‘tree huggers’ sheltering prairie dogs that were then more intent on getting your produce you should rethink your methods.

    Obviously the psychology of the actual situation makes this an imperfect analogy, but I think you know where I am going with this.

  64. Michael says:

    Today the left and MSM went ballistic when Bush had a mission accomplish sign after overthrowing Iraq. Iraqi military and government surrender.

    I don’t believe that either the Iraqi military nor the Iraqi government officially surrendered, they merely disbanded.

    The 5 to 10 base agreement needs to be done more for Iraqi security and to prevent the government from sliding back into a dictatorship.

    So we are to ensure that a dictatorship does not arise in the future too? Is that one of your goals?

    When the situation on the ground is right we can withdraw our troops. We don’t need a declaration of victory besides the left will never let us anyway.

    And how will we know when the situation on the ground is right? Is there specific difference between right and not right, or will it be somebody’s judgment call?

    Going back to your prairie dog example, would you have accepted a job of “removing the prairie dogs and ensuring that they would not return”, to be paid only upon achievement of that task?

  65. Wayne says:

    My point with the prairie dogs example is that you don’t need to have all the facts to do to take actions. Just because a task is daunting doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Just because it can’t be done perfectly or absolutely doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Sometime task take times and sometime you have to make things worse before it gets better.

    Could the poison we were using cause a prairie dog population boom? Yes but it didn’t. Did we have set backs at times? Yes but with determination we prevailed. Did Bush action cause a increase in Al Qaeda temporary? Yes, however now all indications are they are in deep trouble.

    Michael
    There were official surrenders but that is superficial either way.
    There are no guarantees in life. The five to ten year would only greatly increase the chances. If I can greatly increase my odds, I’m all for it.

    I already said when the situation on the ground is “right” is a judgment call. I prefer having someone who is more interested in making Iraq work make that call instead of someone whose primary goal is fulfilling a campaign promise.

    As for the prairie dogs I would pay a good deal to remove all noticeable populations. They may come back and the job may have to be done once again, that is nature. Having your land clear for a period of time is much better than having it being overrun for that time.

  66. Michael says:

    As for the prairie dogs I would pay a good deal to remove all noticeable populations.

    Oh sure, you’d pay, but would you do the work if you only got paid after reaching an ambiguous goal, and your customer would have to make a judgment decision on whether you had accomplished it or not?

  67. Wayne says:

    Actually I have in my young days with some of our neighbors’ fields. Of course I knew when I was dealing with a fair neighbor which was the case most of the time and when I was dealing with a@#hole that wouldn’t be fair and would change the goal post regardless of how specific the job was spelled out.

    The most important traits to have are being persistent and determine when wiping out prairie dogs. A fair person can tell by looking around wither you have control of the dog population or not. Can you be fair?

    I went shooting prairie dogs when I went back home on the 4th July weekend. I had to go to a far neighbor’s field to do it. Their tolerance levels for dogs are much higher than my family’s, although it is nice to keep a small population around for target practice.