Iraq

Iraq War: Keeping McCain Alive?

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While Newsweek's Jonathan Alter (and other pundits) are positing that his steadfast "we've won, or we're winning, or we're gonna win, or we better win" stance on Iraq is derailing the Straight Talk Express, Ryan Sager at the New York Sun offers instead that it's the main thing keeping John McCain's political chances alive–and also that he isn't as dead as he seems, except perhaps to his former non-conservative media believers. Saith Sager:

Not only do I not believe Iraq is hurting Mr. McCain with Republican primary voters, I'd go so far as to say that Iraq is the only reason Mr. McCain is still even a viable candidate on the Republican side. Mr. McCain has engendered a tremendous amount of ill will among Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, during his career. Campaign-finance reform, attacks on the religious right, the campaign against President Bush in 1999-2000 (and lingering hostility thereafter), being the darling of the "liberal" media — none endeared him to the base.

But standing by the Iraq war when the going has gotten tough, that speaks to a lot of Republican primary voters. It's not as if the anti-war senator from Nebraska, Chuck Hagel, has been taking off. And it's not as if Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Romney has been running away from Iraq, either. The people who are mad at Mr. McCain over Iraq are people like … Jonathan Alter. And the rest of the media.

For all the other reasons to want McCain to meltdown toot sweet, see Matt Welch's April Reason cover feature .

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  1. The only thing that prevents me from mocking him to no end is the fact that he was tortured in a Vietnamese prison for so many years.

    Still, he blew his chance. He is essentially running as Bush 3.0

  2. Nothing is keeping McCain alive. He’s the political undead, twitching and lurching from one press appearance to another. More than likely, he’ll just come back every four years, reeking a little more each time, until his body catches up with his career.

  3. he has a small, meaningless base of hawks in his corner

    he has no chance of winning the nomination or the presidency

  4. Well, when it’s all said and done, and he’s looking back on his non-achievements from amidst the rubble of a wrecked political career, he can always remember with pride that time he fought tooth and nail to keep marijuana out of the hands of ailing cancer patients.

  5. McCain’s time was in 2000. Hes backtracked on so many issues (i.e. the religious right) and married himself to a failed war. Hes toast, and I couldn’t be happier. I always believed a McCain presidency would lead to an Iranian war and most likely a draft. You know, all that talk of “pursuing something greater than your own self interest”.

  6. Hmm, how long ago was it that I and many others were writing off Joe Liebermann? You’ve gotta be careful about that stuff.

    Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that unless Iraq improves extremely rapidly, it won’t matter whether McCain wins the nomination by standing tough, he’ll have zero chance in the general election. As much as I hate McCain and Bush at this point, though, I really really hope this new strategery works, even if it means resurrecting McCain’s career like a disembodied hand from the garbage disposal of history.

  7. The contrast with the British Marines can only help too.McCain’s sincerity in his stance despite the political downside shows he is there where it counts -too bad about the rest of his political positions(yes, including cockfighting).
    aside from y’alls position on the WAR remeber that not only does America hate to lose- it is not a good thing if we do. A pro-war candidate can go all the way.

  8. Single Issue Voter, it’s an excellent thing if America loses – every American defeat means at least 25 years respite before the next (major) war.

  9. Anti-war types tend not to realize the war is still supported by a large majorities of Republicans.

    “it’s an excellent thing if America loses – every American defeat means at least 25 years respite before the next (major) war.”

    Yeah, if only we had lost World War II. Not only would it have made European maps much easier to memorize, we could have prevented the needless defense of South Korea and the whole Korean peninsula could be enjoying the enlightened rule of Kim Jong Il.

  10. Talldave: Enlightened rule of Emperor Akihito, you mean? The Kim Jongs would have wound up in a corpse heap somewhere, or stayed peasants.

  11. W doesn’t have a natural political heir*, especially since VP Cheney has never been in the picture as a potential president, given his health problems. Besides whatever policy flips McCain has made in his rush to kiss the hems of the social cons, he’s trying to pull a paradigm swap, from Maverick Insurgent to Defender of the Faith. He’s doing as well as he is partly because none of the other prominent GOPers are plausible in the DoF role.

    If either Grassley or Paul could deploy a particle of charisma, one of them might be able to fill the Maverick Insurgent role. Giuliani has some spark, and is certainly an outlier on the social issues, but I don’t see him doing a 180? from Bush on Iraq. Romney is auditioning for DoF, but the socons might not trust him because of his record in MA, or because he believes in one more Holy Book than they do.

    If I were a Dem candidate, I’d be tempted to start talking about my Secret Plan to End The War. It worked for Nixon.

    Kevin

    *JEBush would be the natural heir, but they kinda screwed that up.

  12. considering we’re spending 40% of our nation’s tax revenues on our fabulous cold war bric-a-brac of a military

    and, considering that “military Keynesianism” is pretty much “the news” where either political party is concerned (not to mention a lot of other ‘vested interest’ types currently crowding the war piggy hog trough), don’t hold your breath expecting someone to step up and suggest we’re spending ourselves poor by habitually maintaining a last century monolith of a military, ill suited for the low end decentralized tactics currently in resurgence. We won’t see fiscal sanity being peddles mainstream until it’s painfully obvious that we’re, well, poor.

    By then, McCain’ll likely have morphed (shape shifting whore that he is) into a fiscal conservative war hero with an ax to grind with excessive military spending…but it’ll likely be too late.

    I do hope there’ll be enough confinement loaf to go around.

  13. “it’s an excellent thing if America loses – every American defeat means at least 25 years respite before the next (major) war.”

    Yeah, if only we had lost World War II.

    I think Eugene meant to say “neo-imperalistic quagmire” instead of “major war”.

    Good point 555 about America’s “defense” spending. America’s military budget is equal to something like the next 6 or 7 largest military budgets combined, including Russia, China and France. And yet to some conservatives the defense budget is dangerously low and needs to be increased still further. Go figure.

  14. crimethink,

    I’m not quite sure why one would have written of Lieberman. The liklihood of him winning re-election as a third-party candidate were always pretty high.

    Chris Innes,

    Ideologically speaking some folks want the U.S. to remain the sole superpower in the world indefinately.

  15. Ideologically speaking some folks want the U.S. to remain the sole superpower in the world indefinately.

    As opposed to who, exactly? The Chinese?

    considering we’re spending 40% of our nation’s tax revenues on our fabulous cold war bric-a-brac of a military

    As a percentage of GDP, current military spending is pretty comparable to what its been for the last 60 years – around 5%?

    The percentage of total federal outlays (not just “discretionary”) for national defense is more like 20%, not 50%.

  16. R.C. Dean,

    As opposed to who, exactly? The Chinese?

    I’m sure China is a concern to some. Anyway, it is unlikely that the U.S. will remain the sole military superpower. It already isn’t the sole economic superpower.

  17. Chris Innes,

    One of the things that I realized long ago is that many Americans are devouted to the past “forms” of the U.S. without much of an appreciation how much the U.S. (or the world) has changed. That’s a fairly dangerous thing.

  18. Sager says that McCain generated “tremendous ill will” among Republicans. So why did he almost beat Bush? Republicans hate criticism of Iraq, because the war defines them. But they hate that too. It’s true that liberals are profoundly disappointed in McCain, but they were never his supporters within the Republican Party anyway. Republicans are grasping at straws. McCain, Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson: what do any of these men have to do with the born-again Christians who are the backbone of the Republican Party? Nothing.

  19. Totally OT, but can we stop all this stuff where people have to be referred to by ‘Mr.’ before their last name, even if they’re referred to about 27 times in a paragraph? I don’t know if it was the NYT who started this or not, but a couple of years ago articles with any amount of name-dropping started becoming unreasonably clunky. Just call people by their last names and leave the prefixes off, PLEASE.

  20. I think Eugene meant to say “neo-imperalistic quagmire” instead of “major war”.

    Yeah, what the hell did we accomplish with that useless neo-imperialistic quagmire in South Korea?

  21. It already isn’t the sole economic superpower.

    Oh yes it is. You forget that U.S. GDP per capita is 20% higher than any other major country. China is building its economy exporting to us, not the other way around. When everyone is trying to get rich selling to you, you have all the leverage.

    So why did he almost beat Bush?

    Well, he didn’t, really. Bush was the presumptive candidate long before NH and Iowa. A couple strong primary showings didn’t change that much.

    Also, much of that ill will came after his loss to Bush. He’s since strived to be the darling of the left-leaning media.

  22. Ideologically speaking some folks want the U.S. to remain the sole superpower in the world indefinately.

    The point becomes more moot every day: as countries find they must liberalize their economies to compete with the United States, the act of comptetition itself inexorably brings them into political alignment with the U.S.

    China is probably about where Taiwan and South Korea were in the 1970s (in fact, this view is widely held by Chinese political intellectuals). By the time they achieve anything like per capita parity, the idea of a military confrontation will be unthinkable as for any of our other major trading partners.

  23. TallDave,

    Oh yes it is. You forget that U.S. GDP per capita is 20% higher than any other major country.

    Compare the U.S. to a relatively unified market like the EU it becomes apparent that there are at least two economic superpowers in the world.

  24. TallDave,

    …the idea of a military confrontation will be unthinkable as for any of our other major trading partners.

    Yeah, in the late 19th century people argued that there couldn’t possibly be another major war in Europe because of all the economic ties between the major powers of Europe. I’m not one of these people who believe in the end of history or a Kantian “universal peace.”

  25. TallDave,

    The End of History lasted about seven years.

    Alan Venneman,

    “Sager says that McCain generated “tremendous ill will” among Republicans. So why did he almost beat Bush?”

    Because of independents votin in open primaries. That’s what the Bushies were saying at the time, which led several state parties to change the rules so that only registered Republicans could vote in Republican primaries. This was a big story during 2000.

  26. Grotius-
    *Yeah, in the late 19th century people argued that there couldn’t possibly be another major war in Europe because of all the economic ties between the major powers of Europe.*

    By 1914 there was little free trade among the powers of Europe. They had divided the globe into little mercantilist colonies and “spheres of influence” that they had to maintain in order to guarantee access to raw materials and markets for their goods. If you were like Germany and were late to the imperial scramble and had few colonies, it was believed war could bring benefits.

  27. RC Dean, Grotius,

    “‘Ideologically speaking some folks want the U.S. to remain the sole superpower in the world indefinately.’

    As opposed to who, exactly? The Chinese?”

    And here we see the disconnect between realists and neoconservatives. Grotius was talking about the world as a system, with each country defined primarily by the role it plays in that system. RC is talking about good guys and bad guys, with each country defined by how acceptable its governing ideology is to him.

    A unipolar world is inherently unstable, like a unicycle. A bi- or multi-polar world is more stable. By this thinking, the character of each power is less important than the balance of power between them.

    But according to neoconservative ideology, the world will be more peaceful, stable, and progressive to the extent that the United States, with its exceptional goodness, is dominant over everyone else.

  28. Cesar,

    By 1914 there was little free trade among the powers of Europe.

    Europe was one of the bastions of free trade in the post-Franco-Prussian war era. Between the various nations of Europe, in other words, trade was as free then as it is today or even more so.

    As for the business of colonial empires, it is pretty clear that Britain and Russia had far more to fight over than Britain and Germany from that standpoint. Indeed, if one were to look at the whole business of the “Great Game” one would predict a war between those nations than between the UK and Germany.

  29. Grotius-

    Don’t forget the war started because Russia and Austria-Hungary were competing for their respective spheres of influence in the Balkans. So in a way, imperialism did indeed start the entire conflict. The only reason France and UK got involved was the alliance system.

  30. 1. McCain keeps the petro dollars coming into the party.

    2. Somebody else will be the candidate.

    3. McCain doesn’t need popular support from the base or anybody else. That is not his function. His function is to make people think of brave soldiers when they think of the oil wars. He is good at that. I am sure it is lucrative for his political party.

  31. Cesar,

    In other words, what really annoyed the crap out of Britain vis a vis Germany? The rise of the post-Bismark German navy. Was the German navy primarily a threat to Britain’s colonies? No, not really. What was it a threat to? The British homeland. The primary fear was that it would be used to attack Britain itself, a situation Britain had been trying to avoid with other European navies since the First Anglo-Dutch War.

    Why was Germany building a navy? In part to please domestic interests who wanted a navy for economic and other reasons – industrial jobs, profits from the building of ships, various “pride of nation” concerns, etc.

  32. Cesar,

    France got involved because it was invaded.

    Britain got involved – after a few days of debate – in part as a means to honor its treaty with Belgium.

    Germany decided to support the Austro-Hungarians (who wouldn’t have moved without said support) because of paranoid fears regarding the rise of Russia as an industrial power. The German government at its highest levels feared becoming a second-class economic and military power. In other words, colonies had very little to do with its rational for war.

    Now Germany did try to use colonial issues as a wedge against France; but that ended up backfiring on them and instead of isolating France it drew the U.S. and the U.K. closer to France.

  33. Cesar,

    Anyway, good discussion. Have a better one.

  34. I wouldn’t count JM out just yet. He’s building his collection of brownie points with Bush. When he cashes them in the Prez will start playing the fear card hard. If we have a terrorist attack in this country between now and the election, McCain will be president.

  35. If we have a terrorist attack in this country between now and the election, McCain will be president.

    If it is a terrorist attack by a US combat veteran, like Oklahoma City, then probably not.

    If it is a large scale terrorist attack where people are taken out with guns, rather than bombs or chemicals, then probably not.

    It really needs to be the 9/11, 7/7, 3/11 variety of attack.

  36. Isn’t this the stuff to keep him alive?

    ha ha.

    Still am happy I voted him in the primary!

  37. The only thing that prevents me from mocking him to no end is the fact that he was tortured in a Vietnamese prison for so many years.

    His half-assed opposition to other peoples’ torture (and in the case of medical marijuana, supporting their torture by denying them medicine) pretty much evaporates any need to worry about that.

  38. RC is talking about good guys and bad guys, with each country defined by how acceptable its governing ideology is to him.

    Says who? I was merely asking who else was a candidate for military superpower status. I’m not seeing another liberal democratic superpower on the horizon, unless maybe the Indians tool up.

    A unipolar world is inherently unstable, like a unicycle. A bi- or multi-polar world is more stable.

    I would say the world was more of a multi-polar world before each of the World Wars. I would also point out that the bi-polar Cold War spawned a rash of nasty little conflicts.

    IOW, I’m not sure at all about this one. Perhaps someone with some historical perspective could chime in?

  39. It really needs to be the 9/11, 7/7, 3/11 variety of attack.

    Agreed.

  40. Hate to be a nerd, but it is tout de suite, not toot sweet.

    If on the other hand it was meant as a knowing joke (like intentionally pronouncing celtic wrong), then never mind.

  41. Yeah, in the late 19th century people argued that there couldn’t possibly be another major war in Europe because of all the economic ties between the major powers of Europe. I’m not one of these people who believe in the end of history or a Kantian “universal peace.”

    And in the mid-20th, people argued Prussian militarism and the Japanese warrior mentality meant those countries could never be at peace for long.

    The modern record for liberal democracies staying out of war with each other is very, very good.

  42. Compare the U.S. to a relatively unified market like the EU it becomes apparent that there are at least two economic superpowers in the world.

    Well, the EU isn’t a politically cohesive unit, so it’s problematic to assert they are a superpower. It’s much more a collection of trading agreements and vague goals than a nation-state.

  43. But according to neoconservative ideology, the world will be more peaceful, stable, and progressive to the extent that the United States, with its exceptional goodness, is dominant over everyone else.

    Given the alternatives, it’s hard to see he flaw in that. American influence and military prowess helped move Taiwan, Japan, West Germany, and South Korea from authoritarianism or militarism to liberal democracy. Russia’s influence hasn’t been very beneficial, to put it mildly (albeit improved post-1990), and China gave us North Korea… America might not be perfect, but it’s probably the least bad alternative available to the world.

  44. TallDave,

    The modern record for liberal democracies staying out of war with each other is very, very good.

    No it isn’t. Just consider how many wars that the U.S. alone has fought since WWII.

  45. Grotius, I think you missed the “each other” part.

    How many liberal democracies have we gone to war with, again?

  46. R.C. Dean,

    Lots. Germany vs. the UK in WWI. Remember right up to WWI Germany was viewed as a liberal democratic state. In other words, one can create any old typology to push the “universal peace” message re: liberal democracies.

  47. R.C. Dean,

    I have to say that the typology issue, problem of establishing causation, etc. ought to be pretty obvious issues right off the bat that one should get a handle on prior to adopting this particular theory.

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