Foreign Policy

McCain's Cheap Dates

Is his policy really less interventionist than George W. Bush's?

|

John McCain has two fundamental and conflicting challenges in the national election: 1) Rally disaffected Republicans to his side, particularly libertarians, social cons, war-skeptics, immigration restrictionists, and those who he has personally pissed off over the years; and 2) maintain his attractiveness to independents, moderate Democrats, and loyalists to whichever of the two Dem candidates gets croaked in the primaries.

Problem #1 will largely take care of itself. Merely by pointing out the Democrats' leftward drift on economics, McCain will win back many disgruntled fiscal conservatives. I'm sure he'll nominate as veep someone sufficiently young and conservative in a way McCain is not. And most importantly, the dwindling ranks of true-blue Republicans don't require that loud of a dog whistle (Supreme Court! George McGovern!) to get back on the bus. To watch that process unfold in real time, keep reading former lead McCain-basher Hugh Hewitt now that his Mormon isn't headed for the White House.

That leaves Door #2 as the main focus of McCain's attention. Here, he has two huge vulnerabilities: 1) Much of his likeability stems from that enduring image as straight-talker, which gives indie-leaning voters seven long months of flip-floppery and absolutist statements to learn that this image is a lie and 2) he wrapped up the Republican nomination largely through by winning with 2-1 ratios among voters who hate the war and hate George W. Bush. Eventually, the majority of Americans who are weary of the Global Cop act are going to realize that McCain is a more enthusiastic interventionist and committed benevolent-imperialist than his predecessor, whose miserable unpopularity is due in no small part to his activist foreign policy. Thus it becomes crucial for McCain to distance himself from Bush on foreign affairs, preferably in a way that changes the subject from his own interventionism.

That was the political backdrop to McCain's Major Address on Foreign Policy last week in Los Angeles, which campaign staff busily telegraphed to a willing press corps as an important distancing-from-Bush moment. Judging by Davids Brooks and Broder, not to mention this remarkably biased news story in the Washington Post…mission accomplished! So how did McCain, in the words of establishmentarian-in-chief Broder, signal "a vastly different approach from President Bush's […] that might heal the wounds left here at home and abroad by the past seven years"? It's a thin reed, but here ya go:

1) He mouthed the magical three-syllable phrase: "I hate war." Uttered, needless to say, "as only a man who has experienced its horrors can do," according to Broder.

It was due to such pious and pithy protestations—as opposed to, say, McCain's long, specific and never-withdrawn doctrine of "rogue-state rollback"—that the Des Moines Register concluded McCain would be "reluctant to start" war. Unless you are the cheapest of cheap dates, or just so predisposed toward the guy that you can't see straight, it should take more than three words to disprove a totally consistent decade-plus record of hawkish interventionism and dependable boots-on-the-groundism.

2) He said "the United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone," and that "when we believe international action is necessary, whether military, economic, or diplomatic, we will try to persuade our friends that we are right. But we, in return, must be willing to be persuaded by them." Cries a relieved Broder, "an implicit rebuke to the mind-set of the current White House"!

Another cheap date. If you really believe that President McCain will be talked out of a decision to go to war by a democratic ally, I invite you to read his comments about the Japanese in the run-up to the Gulf War, or what he said about the French and Kosovo in 1999, or this Sept. 24, 2002 interview with Larry King:

KING: Senator, when Vice President Gore said, after September 11, we had enormous sympathy, goodwill and support. We squandered it, and in one year we've replaced that with fear, anxiety and uncertainty, not at what the terrorists are going to do, but at what we're going to do. In other words, he's saying, in essence, countries now don't like us, that were supporting us a year ago. You create a lot of ill will by doing this. You're going to need the support of everybody to go in. What's wrong with that?

MCCAIN: Well, I think we have the goodwill of most countries in the world, with the notable exception of Germany, which—their candidate for chancellor chose to, in a really obscene fashion, in my view, chose to use Iraq as a way to get reelected.

What about the Uni-power thing? Here's an exchange I had with last July:

Q: Senator on the defense budget—We now spend about roughly the same amount on defense as the rest of the world combined. Is that a healthy ratio, and if it's not, what would be a healthy ratio?

A: Oh, it's healthy. We need a bigger Army, we need a bigger Marine Corps. You look around the world?Iran, North Korea, uh, Afghanistan?it's not going to be over for a long time.

Or let's just roll more tape from the speech itself, to see messianic American exceptionalism — and analogical illiteracy—at its finest:

President Harry Truman once said of America, "God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose." In his time, that purpose was to contain Communism and build the structures of peace and prosperity that could provide safe passage through the Cold War. Now it is our turn.

3) He hyped a 'League of Democracies.'

Now, there have been times that I have been intrigued by a League of Democracies, as has Jonathan Rauch, but regardless of whatever Rauch, Welch or McCain might think about a 21st century League of Nations, the main point is that there is no way in hell anything remotely like this is happening any time in the next decade. After eight years of a cranky, go-it-alone White House that won re-election in part by bashing limp-wristed Euro-weenies, the chances of another interventionist Republican winning enough good faith among grumbly allies to create a brand spanking new America-defined Club of Winners are something approaching zero.

4) He wants to close Guantanamo.

That is indeed terrific news, and promises to be one of the virtues of a McCain presidency (along with pro-trade policies, earmark reform and serial uses of the veto pen). But remember—McCain was against torture, too, and that led to … the eradication of habeas corpus. His reforms tend to break down upon negotiation (when not plain lousy to begin with). But even if President McCain is successful in shutting down Gitmo—as I think he would be—we are talking about an issue that's close to purely symbolic. Meanwhile, in the non-symbolic world, McCain wants to increase troop levels by 150,000, maintain a much more aggressive posture toward Russia, Iran, China, North Korea and Burma (at minimum), and launch a brand-new O.S.S. to help destabilize foreign despots.

5) He wants a "successor to the Kyoto Treaty, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner."

Here the cheap dates will be those Europeans who believe that the demon-spawn George W. Bush invented Kyoto opposition in the U.S. (as well as the death penalty). Here, too, a perennial McCain question must be asked—will his "reform" actually, you know, work?

As reason science correspondent Ron Bailey has shown, existing cap-and-trade markets are "not working," because "governments have every incentive to cheat" due to the fact that "the process is inherently political." Aside from any other bad (or good) policy that might result from a Kyoto II, what McCain's cap-and-trade gesture amounts to a rhetorical signal that—if you believe Global Warming is a threat—his Heart Is in the Right Place.

Which might be enough. My former colleagues on the L.A. Times editorial board, for example, endorsed McCain during the primaries in part because "he supported cap-and-trade systems that could reduce greenhouse gases, and he has stayed that course despite criticism from fellow Republicans." Even though, a half-year previous, that same board concluded that cap-and-trade has too many "drawbacks" to be workable. I guess it's the thought that counts!

So in summation: McCain says he hates the wars he'll inevitably launch. He says the U.S. cannot act alone with all the unipolar power he'll continue to amass and flex. He advocates a League of Democracies that will never happen, and an environmental treaty that probably won't work.

As David Brooks noted, "Anybody who thinks McCain is merely continuing the Bush agenda is not paying attention." He's right—McCain will close Gitmo, make a couple of cheap rhetorical promises to play nice with the world, then increase this administration's interventionism in a way befitting a candidate who ran as the neo-conservative favorite against the too-humble foreign policy approach of governor George W. Bush.

The only question is whether his deep reserves of credibility in the Bank of Media is enough to maintain the fiction that he's less an interventionist than his predecessor. Judging by the Washington Post's news pages, he's well on his way:

McCain is often portrayed in the news media as a global John Wayne who would tread on the world stage with a Navy veteran's swagger and talk tough toward unfriendly governments in Iran and North Korea.

But his record on foreign policy during two decades in the Senate is more nuanced. 

Matt Welch is the editor in chief of reason and the author of McCain: The Myth of a Maverick

NEXT: Putting the "Oh?" in O.S.S.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So why do so many people think he’s a secret peacemaker.

    Well, the last Republican candidate for president promised us a “humbler foreign policy”. Since I have no reason to believe McCain is any less of a liar than Bush, I won’t be too terribly surprised if a President McCain withdraws the troops from Iraq as soon as the oath of office is out of his mouth.

  2. D.C. newsies consistently confuse “nice guy I get along with” with “political moderate.”

    Especially Broder.

  3. With McCain as our Commander-in-Chief, we will have peace trhough strength.

    The kind of “peace” we will get with Obama is the same “peace” Neville Chamberliane gave Britain in 1938.

  4. The kind of “peace” we will get with Obama is the same “peace” Neville Chamberliane gave Britain in 1938.

    I know I’ll regret asking this, but … in this analogy of yours, who is playing the role of Hitler, determined and quite able to take over a good chunk of the civilized world?

  5. Exactly the right comparison.

    If we let the Iraqis have Iraq, who knows what they’ll start demanding next.

    Personally, I don’t buy that BS about the Iraqis just seeking to protect the rights of Iraq’s Iraqi minority. That’s just a cover for their ambitions of bringing all of Iraqi – both the Iraqi parts, and the Iraqi parts – under Iraqi control.

  6. ” Oh, it’s healthy. We need a bigger Army, we need a bigger Marine Corps. You look around the world?Iran, North Korea, uh, Afghanistan?it’s not going to be over for a long time.”

    Obama has come out and said the same thing about increasing the size of the military. Also, Obama, while arguing for a timed withdrawal from Iraq, also says he will ramp up US involvement in Afghanistan and has endorsed the idea of raids into Pakistan. Is Obama a cheap date to Matt? Maybe Obama is lying but I see no reason not to take him at his word. If you really are an “anti-interventionist” as Welch claims to be, you really don’t have any options in this election. I don’t like Obama but I would not call him an isolationist and don’t see how he is any less likely to get the US into another war than McCain. I don’t get Welch’s obsession with McCain at the expense of covering any other candidate or issue.

  7. Jennifer the Islamofascists have made it clear they want to restore a Global Caliphate, then march on the civilized world.

    We must stop them, and the central battle now is in Iraq.

    If we leave now, if we don’t finish the job, Al Qaeda and Iran and the other Islamofascists will crow to the world that they defeated America, that America is weak and decadent and that they can defeat us anywhere. Is that what you want? I sure don’t!

  8. Yes! Endless war is the only way to stop that infernal crowing! There is no cost to great, if only the crowing can be prevented!

  9. too great, dammit.

  10. Neil–

    What is a “Freedom Swatch” anyway? I have heard of swatches of fabric and of colors, but never swatches of freedom. Is your .org dedicated to swatches of freedom?

  11. I don’t like Obama but I would not call him an isolationist and don’t see how he is any less likely to get the US into another war than McCain.

    The key difference is that there is an actual enemy – who has successfully attacked us – living along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  12. I think the reasoning is a variant of “only Nixon (a hawk on Communism) could go to (Communist) China.” Only this time the causality is muddied up: McCain is so much of a hawk that he could only be trying to make peace. It’s not impossible, but wildly improbable.

    Here is the kernel of truth in McCain-as-peacemaker. Although there are relatively few Americans who now want to keep the war in Iraq going, there are also relatively few who favor withdrawal if it will mean accepting that we’ve lost. So it’s a logjam. The person to accomplish withdrawal needs to persuade doubters that the strongest possible effort was made — and who better than someone widely known as a hawk?

    McCain also just happens to be an expert at conceding defeat — the man is a walking mea culpa. (Perhaps a lingering effect of a military career whose greatest success was surviving years of torture). So people are not wholly imperceptive to wonder whether, after a bout of recklessness, McCain will once again feel a need to don the hair shirt and turn around the way he did on campaign finance after Keating.

    Neil, is there a joke I’m missing, or didn’t you hear that WWII analogies are almost universally hilarious? Didn’t Hitler promise Germans “peace through strength,” or something like it? Well, if McCain is Hitler and Obama is Chamberlain, you’ve got nothing to worry about this November!

  13. John I’m pretty close to what would be called somewhat unfairly an “isolationist”, but I’d support 100% a “surge” into Afghanistan get the bastards that did 9/11.

    If we had the number of troops in Afghanistan that we have in Iraq right now I bet we could.

    The nation building stuff I’m not so hot on, though.

  14. Chuck,

    I believe the actual name is Freedom’s Watch (or Freedoms Watch, according to the website). Of course you knew that already… right?

  15. Jennifer the Islamofascists have made it clear they want to restore a Global Caliphate, then march on the civilized world.

    And that desire is meaningless in the face of the nuclear arsenal of the United States.

    There have always been Muslims who have looked back at the early years of Islam and called for a caliphate and a turn away from modernity. But they had been losing the internal culture war within Islam since the time of Attaturk if not longer.

    The radical Islamists only started to win when the West decided to stomp on the throat of any Arab who got out of line with regard to Israel. “Moderate” Islam was discredited by humiliation after humiliation being delivered to it by Israel and the West.

    If we leave now, if we don’t finish the job, Al Qaeda and Iran and the other Islamofascists will crow to the world that they defeated America, that America is weak and decadent and that they can defeat us anywhere. Is that what you want?

    I don’t really care what they “crow” one way or the other. Propaganda victories are meaningless to everyone who isn’t a fucking emotional juvenile.

    The fiscal, economic, military, and human costs we are incurring in Iraq are real, actual costs. Your concern about what someone might “crow” is a puerile emotional concern. Faced with a choice between real, actual, hard costs and your infantile pride, I know what I choose.

    Infants like you wander into ambushes and are too stupid to pull out of them, because “retreat” galls your fool’s pride. I am not willing to bankrupt the nation and send men to die so that George Bush can avoid admitting that he got suckered into overcommitting on the ground in the Middle East.

  16. Neil,

    As I’m sure you know, Muslims have sought to establish Islamic empires for millenia. Heck, they even had Spain, once!

    Somehow, Judaeo-Christian ethics and philosophy was able to survive that last great incursion, and did so without the US military!!!

    Also, you warn that “Al Qaeda and Iran… will crow to the world that they defeated America…”

    I’m sorry, but that doesn’t exactly equate to “WORLD TAKEOVER IMMANENT!!!!!!!!!”

    you’ll have to fear-monger a little harder to convince me.

  17. This is mostly a moot issue. We won’t go to war with Iran, and no matter who’s elected we aren’t going to abandon Iraq precipitously.

    If we had the number of troops in Afghanistan that we have in Iraq right now I bet we could.

    There are reasons we never sent 100,000 troops into Afghanistan, and they have nothing to do with Iraq. One, the logistics are a nightmare (most stuff comes in by helo); it might cost as much as a trillion a year to supply them. Two, there are no large concentrations of enemies sitting in one place to fight, so 90% of the troops would end up just sitting around. Three, the terrain is such that insurgents can sucessfully hide indefinitely.

    The Soviets tried the massive brute force approach there and bankrupted their empire.

  18. Jennifer the Islamofascists have made it clear they want to restore a Global Caliphate, then march on the civilized world.

    And Professor Chaos has made it clear he wants to bring apocalyptic catastrophe down upon South Park and thenceforth the world. I’m still not losing any sleep over it.

  19. Neil,
    Are you like, a parody or something?

  20. the Islamofascists have made it clear they want to restore a Global Caliphate, then march on the civilized world.

    A few observations:

    -By that standard, there are only a small handful of Islamofascists. There are many more Islamo-nationalists whose thinking goes no further than their own borders.

    -Caliphate means something like Papacy. Is this why you’re worried?

    -If the caliphate were global, what would be left to march on? Mars? Is that why you’re worried?

    -To develop a caliphate, there already would have to be a civilization (or one would be formed by the very act of instituting a caliphate). In either case, you’d have a degree of conflict between civilizations – not between the civilized and the uncivilized.

    Sorry, I don’t buy it.

  21. John I’m pretty close to what would be called somewhat unfairly an “isolationist”, but I’d support 100% a “surge” into Afghanistan get the bastards that did 9/11.

    If we had the number of troops in Afghanistan that we have in Iraq right now I bet we could.

    The nation building stuff I’m not so hot on, though.”

    I am convinced Bin Ladin is dead. I think we have gotten the actual guys responsible for 9-11. We are left with nation building in Afghanistan to make sure that ones in the future don’t make it a base and attack it again. We are at a wierd crossroads in that we have pretty much snuffed out those directly responsible for 9-11 but the ideology responsible lives on. How do we fight the ideology without giving people an alternative via nation building or at the very least deny adherents a safe haven?

  22. Jennifer,
    That was pretty cool. It’s like you knew when you pressed that button something about islamofascism would ooze out, but you pushed it anyway. It makes me wonder what other buttons Neil has.

  23. We have months ahead of us to straighten out the misimpression that one or the other side of the like-minded have about McCain on foreign & military affairs. Think it will be clarified?

    Obama has come out and said the same thing about increasing the size of the military.

    Seems like consensus on the subject by the establishment. Possibly a manifestation of Lobagola’s law, a rebound against the last movement, which was to decrease the military’s size.

  24. Oh, and to answer the question about McCain:

    People project on to him that he’s the anti-Bush, because he ran against Bush before. The average voter completely ignored McCain’s 5 year quest to transform himself into another Bush brother.

    And any effort to convince the voters that McCain isn’t a maverick who will turn over all existing Bush policies based on, you know, the truth, can’t be heard over the airwaves over the slurping sound coming from John King and everyone else at CNN as they suck on McCain’s dick as loudly as possible, all day every day.

  25. John if hes dead why do all these videos and audio tapes come out where he talks about very recent events? It seems to me Zawahiri and bin Laden are still alive, along with that little “American” Al Qaeda twit (I forget his name).

    The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, is still out there as well.

  26. Tall Dave, our military in 2008 is ten thousand times as capable as the Soviet military in the 1980s. The Soviet conventional forces were a joke by that point.

    For a “surge” supporter you sure seem to like the Rumsfeldian idea of a “light footprint” in Afghanistan. It doesn’t work, though. Powell had it right–when you go, use overwhelming force.

  27. How do we fight the ideology without giving people an alternative via nation building or at the very least deny adherents a safe haven?

    The “safe haven” thing has always been a non sequitur.

    A 9/11 scale attack was well within the capabilities of historical terrorist groups that did not have “safe havens”. The Red Brigades could have pulled it off, if they had the desire. The Basques could pull it off even now. They just don’t want to conduct a 9/11 attack. The resources needed were pathetic.

    The problem with our response to date has been that we have validated the claims of the very ideology we want to defeat. When faced with an opponent who claims that the US wants to conquer and recolonize all of Islam, that the US kidnaps and tortures, that the US only pretends to care about human rights when it’s in its interest to do so, etc., it’s hard to see how the Bush strategy of taking all of those claims and making them true is supposed to win the war on terror.

  28. Cesar,

    We are not sure that voice on those tapes is really Bin Ladin. If Bin Ladin is still alive it is a tremendous propaganda coup for Al Quada. If he were alive and healthy, I don’t see why they wouldn’t be making videos of him holding today’s NYT and giving the fingure to the great Satan.

  29. the Islamofascists have made it clear they want to restore a Global Caliphate

    Of course it’s very very very unlikely they can succeed in that endeavour, but as with their megalomaniacal forebears in Japan, Germany, Russia, and China, they can cause humanity a lot of problems on their way to failure.

    Islamists did seize Iran, held onto Afghanistan until we kicked them out, and made a run at Sunni Iraq before making themselves so unpopular the Sunni Arabs turned to us for help tossing them out.

    Our main challenges now are to turn off the spigot of oil wealth that funds them, and give Arabs the breathing room in which to reject violent religious ideologies.

  30. “When faced with an opponent who claims that the US wants to conquer and recolonize all of Islam, that the US kidnaps and tortures, that the US only pretends to care about human rights when it’s in its interest to do so, etc., it’s hard to see how the Bush strategy of taking all of those claims and making them true is supposed to win the war on terror”
    It is also a US not to be screwed with. A lot of what drove Al Quada to 9-11 was the belief that the US was weak and would give up once we had a few casualties. Bin Ladin had a plan for 9-11. It wasn’t just to kill people. His goal is to throw out the Saudi Royal family and destroy Israel. The US is the biggest obstacle to that. In Bin Ladin’s mind, the US was defined by Somalia where we cut and ran after taking 18 casualties. He honestly thought that once we took big casualties at home that the US would abandon the US. If he had actually known what would happen, I really wonder if Bin Ladin would have done 9-11. Also, Bin Ladin got a huge amount of propaganda out of US troops being in Saudi Arabia. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, we would still have 1000s of people in Saudi Arabia and Bin Ladin would just have more propaganda value for it. The bottomline is that weakness emboldens and creates more converts for Bin Ladin than invasions ever will. Whatever the reasons for not invading Iraq, strengthening Bin Ladin really isn’t one of them.

  31. There’s a milblog at Slate, and the other day I read a fascinating and telling entry from one of our soldiers there. He has a long talk with a native Afghan about freedom of religion, specifically the Afghan who had converted to Christianity and had to flee the country because Afghans wanted to kill him. The native agrees he should have been killed, and the American soldier explains this makes us very angry because we believe very strongly that people should be allowed to make their own decisions about what to believe.

    At the end, the Afghan expresses great surprise (and interest) in this novel idea that people should not have beliefs forced on them.

    That’s the primary war we’re really fighting: a war on simple ignorance. We take freedom for granted, but a lot of Islamists and their supporters just have no exposure to the concept.

  32. But now people (McCain included) are talking about permanent bases in Iraq, which is just as much of a propaganda tool for bin Laden (and Shiite extremists as well given the holy cities there).

    Seems like trading one problem for another to me.

  33. As an addenedum to the last:

    Enlightenment values are not peculiarly Christian or Western values. They are universal truths that all people embrace once they grasp them. That’s why “Western” practices have been so successful in places like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

    The Islamic Enlightenment is well underway. We just need to help it along, as gently as possible, by disempowering those who seek to preserve an oppressive status quo.

  34. The kind of democracy practiced in East Asia is a different kind than western democracy.

    Ex., in Japan theres more emphasis on stability and consensus than competition between parties. Thats why they had what amounted to one-party rule (the LDP) there for so long after the war.

    Even during a deep recession, they still gave them a plurality (!) of the seats in Parliament, something that would never be done in Europe.

  35. If he had actually known what would happen, I really wonder if Bin Ladin would have done 9-11.

    Then why did they kill Ahmed Masood Shah, the leaer of the Northern Alliance, two days earlier?

    They thought they could sucker us into Afghanistan and humiliate us there, but they were wrong.

    Fortunately for them, we gave them another bite at the apple in Iraq, and it worked.

    Next time, how about we consider what might happen if things don’t go well BEFORE we start a war?

  36. The Islamic Enlightenment is well underway.

    And was well underway before we invaded anyone.

    We just need to help it along, as gently as possible, by disempowering those who seek to preserve an oppressive status quo.

    First, do no harm. It is possible to discredit that enlightenment, and discredit ourselves. See Abu Ghraib.

    Traders and students spread ideas better than soldiers.

  37. Fortunately for them, we gave them another bite at the apple in Iraq, and it worked.

    joe, I guess you missed the memo.

    AQ in Iraq is basically a spent force. They bet the farm there, and lost (unless, of coure, we pull out too early).

    The major security problem in Iraq now is the Iranian-backed Shia militias, not AQ.

  38. A lot of what drove Al Quada to 9-11 was the belief that the US was weak and would give up once we had a few casualties.

    Well, at least you’re starting to see that the intent of the 9/11 provocation was to get us to commit ground troops to combat in the Middle East.

    I think that bin Laden didn’t want the US to take a few casualties and leave. I think bin Laden expected to be able to repeat the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan – we were supposed to commit to a war there and stay in place and be attrited. We were supposed to go bankrupt, break our army and destroy its espirit de corps, diplomatically isolate ourselves, and discredit every Muslim who allied himself with us – the same as the Soviets did. That didn’t end up being how Afghanistan went down, so he didn’t get his wish – but as Joe points out, we managed to give him what he wanted in the end anyway, just in Iraq instead.

    It is also a US not to be screwed with.

    And this is a good summary for why the war on terror is failing. We will not win a competition of atrocities and it undermines us to even try.

    It’s also a good summary why we should laugh in the face of anyone who tells us [as McCain does] that staying in Iraq is a matter of “honor”. This is not how honorable men think or behave.

  39. I know I’ll regret asking this, but … in this analogy of yours, who is playing the role of Hitler, determined and quite able to take over a good chunk of the civilized world?

    Jennifer — if by “take over” you mean “successfully topple the existing government and then end the subsequent insurgency, leading to parades with the grateful populace strewing rose petals and not IEDs for the conquerers” then the answer would be “nobody is playing that role”

    But, great snark!

  40. I didn’t miss any memo, RC. You and al Qaeda have been teaming up for years declaring that our upcoming withdrawal will be a major humiliation for the United States, and a victory for the jihad.

    Don’t worry, along with the rest of the world, I’ve gotten your (plural) message loud and clear.

  41. I wonder if Carey locks his doors.

  42. And any effort to convince the voters that McCain isn’t a maverick who will turn over all existing Bush policies based on, you know, the truth, can’t be heard over the airwaves over the slurping sound coming from John King and everyone else at CNN as they suck on McCain’s dick as loudly as possible, all day every day.

    But they could suck anyone’s dick they wanted. Why do they choose his?

  43. “joe, I guess you missed the memo.

    AQ in Iraq is basically a spent force. They bet the farm there, and lost…”

    RC, you missed the point.

    AQ is just a band of thugs with revenge on their mind. That they were able to cause a billion dollars of damage on US soil is bad enough. We then double down in Iraq, trying to install Democracy 1.0 in a land that ain’t interested. We’re well on our way to spending a trillion dollars for this fools errand, not to mention the blood loss. Regardless of how many hundreds of AQ gangsters we’ve killed, what passes for the current AQ leadership has got to be walking around each day with a perma-grin plastered to their faces.
    Assuming that we aren’t making new AQ recruits faster than we kill them, even if we kill every last one of the AQ in Iraq, the US still lost, big time.

  44. Robert, there are many theories as to why they chose McCain’s. Welch has his own theory. There is an Atriotic theory. There is a Rockwellian theory.

    Or maybe John King just likes crazy old guy dick.

  45. But they could suck anyone’s dick they wanted. Why do they choose his?

    Perhaps he’s operating on the assumption “if you absolutely MUST suck dick in order to keep the country safe, flaccid old-guy dick is less likely to suffocate you than firm, virile, young dick.” You know, because the former is too squishy to block your windpipe or anything.

  46. Perhaps he’s operating on the assumption “if you absolutely MUST suck dick in order to keep the country safe, flaccid old-guy dick is less likely to suffocate you than firm, virile, young dick.” You know, because the former is too squishy to block your windpipe or anything.

    [insert geezer’s 4 hr. Viagra erection joke here]

  47. VIVAAAAA VIAGRA!

  48. They thought they could sucker us into Afghanistan and humiliate us there, but they were wrong.

    They believed we would throw a few missiles at them and then give up, as Clinton had done for 8 years. AQ did not realize that even before 9/11 Bush was already asking for a plan that would destroy them rather than merely retaliate.

    Fortunately for them, we gave them another bite at the apple in Iraq, and it worked.

    If by “worked” you mean discredited AQ among a sympathetic audience that, once exposed, so hated their ways that they asked for our help in driving them out.

    Again, AQ underestimated Bush. He did not give up when the war started polling badly.

  49. The kind of democracy practiced in East Asia is a different kind than western democracy.

    True, practice differs, but the essential characteristics are free speech, free assembly, and free elections.

    The Islamic Enlightenment is well underway….And was well underway before we invaded anyone

    Certainly not in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  50. Certainly not in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Actually, Ba’athism was fascistic secular Arab nationalism. Which made it pretty much the bastard offspring of the Enlightenment all the way around.

    If by “worked” you mean discredited AQ among a sympathetic audience that, once exposed, so hated their ways that they asked for our help in driving them out.

    You are living in a fantasy world. Are you really arguing that because a handful of Sunni sheiks in western Iraq decided they’d rather run the joint than let AQI run it, it means Al Qaeda is “discredited”?

    Between the year 2000 and today, is the US more popular across the Islamic world or less? Do we have more diplomatic credibility worldwide or less?

    Between the year 2000 and today, are Al Qaeda and its affiliates more popular across the Islamic world or less? Is radical Islam as a social and political movement more dangerous or less?

  51. Actually, Ba’athism was fascistic secular Arab nationalism. Which made it pretty much the bastard offspring of the Enlightenment all the way around.

    The Enlightenment was built on reason and freedom. The Baathists embodied neither.

    Between the year 2000 and today, are Al Qaeda and its affiliates more popular across the Islamic world or less?

    Support for Al Qaeda has steadily fallen since we liberated Iraq from Hussein, after 12 years of bombing and sanctions that made AQ more popular and beginning 5 years of AQ killing Iraqi civilians that made them less popular.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/07/15/MNGKCDOGV61.DTL

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/02/11/pakistan.opinion/index.html

    Muslim pride may receive as a salve attacks on Washington, London, Madrid, and Western troops in Iraq, but car bombs massacring civilians in Baghdad do not win their affections.

  52. Between the year 2000 and today, is the US more popular across the Islamic world or less?

    I wouldn’t have any idea. I wouldn’t even know how to find out, opinion polling in the Islamic world being what it is. I’m not even sure it matters in the short run, the irrelevancy of public opinion to the major insitutions of the Islamic world being what it is.

    Do we have more diplomatic credibility worldwide or less?

    That’s actually a better question than you know. I wouldn’t assume that our “credibility” has been damaged by our willingness to stick with our commitments in Iraq despite obstacles and setbacks.

    I’m pretty sure our credibility will take a huge hit if we pull out too fast and the whole area goes pear-shaped.

  53. “Again, AQ underestimated Bush. He did not give up when the war started polling badly.”

    Yeah, I’ll bet that AQ just laughed a little louder when they realized they underestimated his stupidity.

    “Support for Al Qaeda has steadily fallen since we liberated Iraq from Hussein…”

    And that makes this war SO worth it.

    Too bad my brethren in Redmond have made pc’s so easy that even a talldoofus can drive one.

  54. The Enlightenment was built on reason and freedom. The Baathists embodied neither.

    A subsection of the Enlightenment was built on those concepts. But the Enlightenment also produced nationalism, and utopian political schemes including socialism [which has always regarded itself as “scientific”] and fascism.

    That means that a political party that advances secularism, nationalism and a nebulous quasi-socialism, quasi-fascism does in fact have its roots in the Enlightenment.

    You have to realize that a broad term like “the Enlightenment” cannot be defined as “ideas I like” or “ideas that led to my own individual set of political beliefs”. There was actually much in the Enlightenment project that left a lot to be desired. After all, Rousseau was part of the Enlightenment, and half the shit that went wrong in the 20th century is his fault pretty much personally.

  55. Was it not FDR who said that he “hated war,” in the middle of a speech advocating intervention in World War II?

  56. TallDave writes,

    They (al Qaeda) believed we would throw a few missiles at them [in Afghanistan} and then give up, as Clinton had done for 8 years.

    The fact that they coordinated the assassination of the head of the Northern Alliance with 9/11 suggests otherwise. As does the long record of bin Laden talking about Afghanistan as the graveyard of Empires, and his desire to get us bogged down in a war there.

    If by “worked” you mean discredited AQ among a sympathetic audience that, once exposed, so hated their ways that they asked for our help in driving them out. Most Iraqis hated al Qaeda and foreign jihadists before this war, and now, a less smaller majority feels that way. Since there was no al Qaeda operating in Iraq – since they were, in fact, at war with that regime and had no presence there before we invaded – the fact that we’ve almost-but-not-quite managed to clean up the al Qaeda mess we created there hasn’t discredited them among anyone.

    It did, however, allow them to kill more Americans than 9/11, while serving as what our own intelligence agencies describe as a massive recruiting video for al Qaeda both in Iraq, and throughout the Muslim world.

    The Enlightenment was built on reason and freedom. The Baathists embodied neither. Neither did the Jacobins. Do you know who they were, TallDave?

    Support for Al Qaeda has steadily fallen since we liberated Iraq from Hussein… Sure. That must explain why they went from not having a presence before the war to being able to operate with impunity in Sunni areas throughout Iraq, at one point after our invasion. Once again, it’s nice that we’ve almost cleaned up that mess we made, but it would been better not to make it in the first place.

  57. On Asia Democracies:

    I’m bullish on these as much as anyone, but keep in mind that if you were eligible to vote for either Bush I or Clinton I, you have probably voted in more ‘fair and free’ elections than anyone in this region outside of Japan.

  58. “Support for Al Qaeda has steadily fallen since we liberated Iraq from Hussein.”

    kausation/korrelation.

    DEMAND KURV! DEMAND KURV!

    what a freakin putz.

  59. John McCain represents the worst of all worlds. He’s a combination of Al Gore and George Bush, an enviro crazy who wants to shut down the western world as we know it and invade everything and everybody else. If elected he’ll make George Bush’s presidency look like a resounding success.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.