Commentary Magazine


No Real Answer

Bob Herbert is the latest of the liberal pundits to be flummoxed by Barack Obama’s refusal to admit the surge has turned our fortunes around in Iraq and that it was a good thing it did. So what to do? Attack John McCain, of course. Herbert writes:

Senator McCain crossed a line that he shouldn’t have this week when he said that Mr. Obama “would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” It was a lousy comment, tantamount to calling Mr. Obama a traitor, and Senator McCain should apologize for it.

Lousy? But why? He doesn’t say why it was wrong, just that it is mean to say it. But it is not wrong, of course. As McCain explained in his radio address today:

Back here in the country that we are competing to lead, a lot folks were having trouble trying to square Senator Obama’s multiple positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. But now that it’s clear that the surge has succeeded, and brought victory in Iraq within sight, Senator Obama can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment. Instead, he commits the even greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would still oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. That’s not exactly my idea of the judgment we seek in a commander-in-chief.

It is the bolded portion which provides the most support for McCain’se proposition. In other words Obama would prefer to have the non-surge Iraq, an American defeat and humiliation and chaos in Iraq. But no, his defenders say, he just thinks the surge wasn’t needed and everything would be just fine now without it. (To be consistent we could have to posit it would be exactly the same as Iraq with no U.S. troops since Obama voted in May 2007 to cut off all funding for troops in Iraq.) There are two problems with that one.

First, it’s fantasy-land stuff. No U.S. military leader, outside observer, Iraqi official or military leader or allied leader thinks that is true. (Not even Katie Couric does.)This is the magic theory of national security. If Obama wants to defend himself on the grounds he’s a naif that’s fine I suppose, but even he says the surge reduced violence.

Second, this is not the reason Obama gave for saying even now he wouldn’t embrace the surge. He said he’d liked to have used the money elsewhere and he wants to implement a surge in Afghanistan. (I know– you can’t make this stuff up.) But in all that he didn’t say anything about Iraq being just fine without the surge. Once again, it is clear he doesn’t much care about the outcome there and didn’t much care all along if we lost in Iraq.

So back to McCain’s accusation. It seems fairly clear that the “losing a war” part of McCain’s argument is rather airtight. That has been the netroot argument all along — Iraq is not our fight, it is irrelevant to fighting Al Qaeda and so we can leave. (They like to say “leave” or “withdraw,” but “withdraw” when your side is in peril is known as “retreat.” And what follows is “defeat.”)

Well then, maybe McCain overstepped on the “for political gain” part of the the construct. Maybe Obama thought his position was really brave and daring and he wasn’t playing to the gallery. Yeah, right. This has been the rallying cry for his campaign, the ticket to the nomination and the item he used to beat Hillary Clinton into submission. So at the very least, he followed a path which maximized his political advantage at every turn. (Again he might claim he was woefully uninformed and despite independent experts, testimony of General PetraeUs and Ambassador Crocker, and reports from Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden, he was totally in the dark as to the progress of the surge, until lo and behold, time had passed and the nomination was sewn up.) And now that all the evidence is in he still sticks with the netroot party line and refuses to embrace the surge. (After witnessing the fit which the Left threw over his reversal on FISA it is understandable that this was one fight which he didn’t want to take on.)

In short, there is ample support for McCain’s argument. The fact that Obama’s supporters can only respond with an ad hominem attack on McCain should remove any doubt But if they want to go back to the naive/uninformed explanation for Obama’s inexplicable refusal to recognize and welcome the results of the surge that probably would be okay with McCain too.

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