Monday, November 03, 2008

Bush, McCain, Obama, Iraq

Why did we get Iraq?

The basic problem was a peacetime President elected in reaction to Bill Clinton's style and errors, forced to deal with a world gone mad.

Because of Bill Clinton's slick style and personal morality issues, people didn't want someone with a slick style and morality issues. So here was GWB, with the image of a twelve step graduate and simple speaker. He got elected.

Then comes 9/11, and he's totally unprepared, I think. We all were. Like most people, I thought he did very well right after 9/11, with his doctrine that harboring a terrorist is being a terrorist.

But Iraq was pretty iffy. Was Saddam really the one to attack next? His relationship to 9/11 was tenuous at best, even though he clearly supported and encouraged terrorism and anti-Americanism generally. And everybody thought he had WMD. I was uneasy because I thought we should do one war at a time, but in the year and a half between 9/11 and the Iraq invasion, it became more and more reasonable to think Saddam Hussein was hiding something. I wondered why we were waiting, giving him time to plan his defenses.

I turned out that his defenses, if he had prepared them, were pretty ineffectual.

Barack Obama, meanwhile, was bravely telling his anti-war constituency in Chicago, much to their delight, that the war was bad.

Suppose someone stands up on a clear day to say, "RAIN!". It doesn't rain, but there he is the next day shouting "RAIN!". Some clouds roll in, but no rain. The next day, there he is, shouting "RAIN!". Sure enough, it rains. Should you hail him as a prophet, even though the next day is clear and he continues to shout "RAIN!"?

So it is with Barack Obama. His one tune for several years was to be against the Iraq war, to call for withdrawal in the face of defeat, even though that would have meant chaos and complete strategic weakness for the United States for decades.

No, once the decision to take out Saddam Hussein was made, we were stuck with that decision. We could not withdraw without having our sacrifice go for naught, and without losing the trust of every ally and potential ally anywhere in the world. We had to show loyalty and constancy in the face of hardship and seemingly impossible odds. Thanks to John McCain we did show loyalty and courage as a nation, and things are going our way now.

But while you can topple a government with air power and 100,000 troops, you can't hold a hostile area the size of California with that. And once we went in, we could not afford to leave without nation-building. The key error of the Iraq war is the repeated mistake of Viet Nam: failure to go all in. I blame Rumsfeld, and Bush's inexperience and penchant for stubborn loyalty.

I'll vote for John McCain, even though I don't like a lot of what he's done, because I don't like anything about Barack Obama except that he's black. But on the Iraq war, John McCain was right all along. He'd been arguing that more troops were needed right from the start, and was one of the early voices for getting rid of Rumsfeld. In retrospect, we'd have been a lot better off with him the last eight years.

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