Friday, July 18, 2008

John McCain: Bluster More Important Than Results

As evidenced by the firestorm over General Clark's comments suggesting that military service alone doesn't classify one to be President - seemingly a self-evident truth, but you wouldn't know it from the response - the presumption that McCain's time in the Hanoi Hilton somehow mitigates the fact that he has demonstrated a distinct lack of basic comprehension in the foreign policy arena persists. Like George Bush, McCain substitutes a qualitative, fundamental understanding of the real world for a fantasy world full of bluster and posturing, all the while given a pass by the media and the public.

In a country which sought an actual examination of proposals and results on the campaign trail, this errant nature would be seen for what it is and discarded hastily. But in the world of the low-information voter, Americans are blinded by the uniformed past and ignore the disastrous results of McCain's ideas when acted upon.

McCain constantly demonstrates his dearth of knowledge by conflating al Qaeda with every source of resistance and continually suggesting that Iran's influence is entirely unwanted and consigned only to America's enemies. The reality is well-documented and provides a stark contrast to McCain's rhetoric.

As I said while examining Obama's proposals for Afghanistan, the Surge has become a red herring in the discussion of Iraq, used as a way of directing attention away from the first four years of the war and focusing it on a short period where violence began to return to a point still obscene and still of US origin. By pointing to the Surge, McCain and his allies have effectively eliminated any and all discussion of the initial tragedy of the decision to invade Iraq. Now McCain and the White House are trying to parlay that tactical and PR success into a winning argument concerning Afghanistan.

Only when given the free pass on foreign policy that McCain is because of his previous service could he avoid the obvious question that should follow his recent proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan: Where have you been? While everyone else has been screaming from the mountaintops that the situation is swiftly deteriorating, McCain has remained silent, merely repeating his call to stay in Iraq until victory arrived. And because he never defined what that meant, he was able to declare just that on Thursday.

I repeat my statement that we have succeeded in Iraq. Not we are succeeding. We have succeeded in Iraq.

This of course allows him to justify paying a little bit of attention to Afghanistan, as everyone has been pleading for months while he fiddled. But McCain's hands are far from clean on the narco state. When it was suggested in 2003 that Iraq might present a distraction - which it clearly has - McCain simply said that the US could "muddle through Afghanistan." Well, the returns are in on that "muddling," and they aren't pretty. Again, in a reality-based world, this blatant lack of foresight, in tandem with his marginalization of those who were actually correct in their assessment, would be met with real consequences. But McCain bears the scarlet 'R,' so that possibility is out.

McCain is allowed to keep perpetrating his shtick, saying he "knows how to win wars," despite all evidence proving precisely the opposite.

Although he chastises Obama for not "having a strategy," McCain offers up a strategy that points yet again to his complete failure to properly assess even the most apparent realities of the foreign policy arena. His strategy calls for an increase in the size of the Afghan military funded by other countries. This plan ignores entirely the fact that other countries have abandoned the Afghanistan effort precisely because of the Iraq War, a war that McCain has championed since the Nineties. He has also called for more NATO troops, again disregarding Robert Gates' trip earlier this year in search of just that which came up empty.

McCain also promised to capture Osama bin Laden, which is odd given his statement in 2002 on Face the Nation that bin Laden's capture wasn't "that important."

To suggest that McCain's foreign policy proposals should be examined on their merits rather than his past sporting of a uniform is not a denigration of service in general. It is a rational approach to campaign procedure which implies that the results of one's ideas should have at least some bearing on one's reputation. If that were the case, McCain's reputation in the foreign arena would be irreparably damaged, as he has shown with tremendous clarity at every juncture of the Bush years to be completely void of even a fundamental understanding of the real world. In a world governed by results rather than bluster, the fact that those who disagreed with McCain have be proven right at nearly every turn would begin to wear on the man's political stature.

But as it stands, facts have taken a back seat to conventional wisdom. It doesn't matter how many times McCain's policies prove to be an utter failure, he'll still have an 'R' next to his name, and in America that means never having to admit errors, even as they continuously knock you between the eyes.


Surge II: Afghanistan, July 15
Calling Their Shots, March 20
Changing the Rules of the Game, April 1
Fences Make Good Neighbors, April 11

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