McCain’s 100 Years War

McCain 100 Years War Photo Matt Lewis asks, “What do Bogart, Kirk, and McCain Have in Common?”

Humphrey Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam,” Captain Kirk never uttered, “Beam me up, Scotty” — and John McCain never promised a hundred year war!

… The danger, of course, is that everybody thinks Bogie and Kirk said those now famous lines. And if we’re not careful, the public may also mistakenly believe McCain said he wanted a hundred year war. As Churchill may, or may not have said: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

What McCain actually said, as Charles Krauthammer points out, is that he would have no problem with a long term American military presence akin to what we’ve had in Europe since WWII and Korea since the cease-fire there: “We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.”

Spinning it into “one hundred years of war,” as both Clinton and Obama have done, is smart politics and within the bounds of how the game is played; mild distortions of opponents’ positions, votes, and so forth are considered “just politics.” The problem is when the press corps treats these things as fact and they settle into the public consciousness as true.

Story via memeorandum; photo via Moderate Voice.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Distorting one’s opponent’s position is part of the game but turnabout is fair play, too. I suspect that Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton will be just as unhappy when Sen. McCain characterizes their positions as isolationist, anti-trade, etc.

  2. legion says:

    Quite so, Dave. And getting persnickety (that’s an old person’s word!) about McCain’s exact quote belies the real takeaway from that interview – McCain has no more idea what t do in Iraq – how to solve the problems, how to get our troops home, how to make either Iraq or the US safer places – than Bush does.

  3. floyd says:

    There is no “mistakenly” about it!

  4. floyd says:

    Allow me to clarify, this is no mistake, it is an intentional Democrat Party Lie.

  5. Steve Plunk says:

    Spinning it into a complete distortion of the truth is not “smart politics”. It is a lie and should be called out as such.

    A hundred years of being there, a hundred years of presence, a hundred years of commitment, those are spins. Claiming “one hundred years of war” is too much. This is no “mild distortion”.

  6. M1EK says:

    A “hundred years of war” is misleading, but if he doesn’t have a realistic way to turn the war into a “presence”, it’s not really a lie. We’re just HOPING that if we stay there long enough, good things will happen.

    What would such a plan look like? Get rid of the Iraqi federal government and do what we really did in Germany and Japan – build a liberal society from the bottom up, not the top down. First you start with the rule of law, then you hold local elections, then provincial, and only THEN do you hand over to a national government.

    Of course, we can’t do that now. But that’s the only path to a Germany/Japan/Korea-like solution.

  7. legion says:

    Bull Puckey. McCain himself specifically draws comparisons between the post-WWII occupations of Germany & Japan and the post-“mission accomplished” occupation of Iraq. Let’s look…

    How many US troops were killed by insurgent action in Germany & Japan in 1950? Were active combat operations going on in either country? How about civil wars directly caused by the incompetent and poorly-thought out imposition of a puppet government?

    McCain, as noted, does say “…as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.” But the fact is they are being killed. And McCain has no idea what to do about it. Make no mistake – his plan for Iraq is exactly the same as Bush’s: no plan at all.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Legion, I am glad you speak for McCain when you say he has no idea what to do with Iraq. But then you on the left really do have trouble when truth is valued. Would it be a lie to say that if Obama were to ride in a convertable, facing forward the vehicle would lose 5 mph due to his ears catching wind. Your candidate is a race baiting whitey hater. Go read his book, Dreams of my Father. I the world would have read Mein Kampf, Hilter might have been prevented from doing what he did. before you make stupid comments just read the f–king book.

  9. Scott_T says:

    Legion, per wikipedia:

    Even before 1945 SHAEF had long ago worked out automatic arrest categories ranging from the top Nazi Party leadership to the local Ortsgruppenleiter, from the top Gestapo agents to leaders of the Hitler Youth, the Peasants’ League, and the Labor Front. In May and June of 1945 about 700 civilians a day were arrested, and a total of over 18,000 in August. In September 1945, 82,000 suspects were being held in internment camps, available for possible trial and sentencing as members of criminal organizations. [1]

    Well over 100,000 Germans were incarcerated by December 1945, according to Harold Marcuse. Members of the SS and functionaries of the Nazi party and its affiliated organizations who were covered by the category of “automatic arrest” were interned by the US occupation authorities in former Dachau concentration camp. The first of these prisoners were released at the beginning of 1946.

    Their was German/Nazi partisans after WW2, but for the life of me, I can’t remember the name of the group right now.

  10. sam says:

    Allow me to clarify, this is no mistake, it is an intentional Democrat Party Lie.

    Ah for crissakes, lighten up, Floyd. Before this is all over, there will plenty of “lies” all around.

  11. legion says:

    I’ve no doubt there were Nazis & sympathizers in Germany & various other places after WWII, just as there were numerous Emperor-supporting die-hards in Japan. But they were vast minorities, didn’t disrupt the newly-formed governments, had no control or influence over legitimate democratic processes, and basically were never a viable threat.

    Because we had planned our occupations out before we went in. This was demonstrably not done for Iraq.

    Now, 5 years in, our leaders still do not appear to have any deeper thoughts on the matter than “Find someone who says what we like to hear and put him in power… democratic processes? What are those? Get me Chalabi!”

    And McCain has clearly demonstrated that he has no interest in fixing what he doesn’t consider to be a problem.

  12. anjin-san says:

    The German/Japan/Korea comparisons are obvious nonsense.

    We bombed German & Japan until their cultures became
    malleable. We nuked Japan twice. They were both willing to do anything, anything at all to make the bombing stop, including change.

    Are we going to saturation bomb civilians in Iraq until they become a little more open to change?

    South Korea had a large hostile force on it’s norther border that had show it had the means and the will to conquer South Korea. They knew only our military presence was keeping them from conversion into a worker’s paradise.

    Is McCain ignorant of history, or is he just distorting it for political gain?

  13. legion says:

    Indeed, Anjin-san. Even the usually-laughable Joe Kline can see somthing so obvious:

    The problem with John McCain’s 100 years in Iraq formulation isn’t that he’s calling for 95 more years of combat — he isn’t — but that he thinks you can have a long-term basing arrangement in Iraq similar to those we have in Germany or Korea. That betrays a fairly acute lack of knowledge about both Iraq and Islam. It may well be possible to station U.S. troops in small, peripheral kingdoms like Dubai or Kuwait, but Iraq is — and has always been — volatile, tenuous, centrally-located and nearly as sensitive to the presence of infidels as Saudi Arabia. It is a terrible candidate for a long-term basing agreement.

  14. The boys over at RBA do quite a nice job of outlining What McCain really said about 100 years in Iraq. The Dems are just trying to take a soundbite to try and sink McCain. What they don’t realize is that the American public is smarter than that, and isn’t going to back these flip-flopping, cut-and-run, democrats when it comes to national security and foreign policy.