May 15, 2008

McCain's Future

John McCain gave a speech laying out his vision for the future, and he approached it in a way different from your typical speech. He essentially gave a vision statement speech by talking about what the world would look life after his first term. In part, the speech was intended to lay out the "specifics" that supposedly Obama is lacking in. I listened to most of it live and I can't say I was terribly impressed with its content nor the conceptual delivery. If you came in on the speech after he had started, you would have wondered what the hell he was talking about the way he was couching it in the future tense. If this was supposed to be about the "specifics" of a McCain presidency, it was way light. Lets take a look at some of the geopolitical issues in the speech and see if we can find any specifics.

“The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced.”

Where are the specifics in the above? This is a goal statement, not a policy position. Here's what really bothers me, and its a failing of the current administration that McCain appears ready to replicate, which is what is the definition of victory? Is that even the appropriate characterization for how we resolve our Iraq presence? When you say the war is won, we think all the enemy is dead or has surrendered and we're running the joint. Oh, hey, that was supposed to have happened already right? Isn't that what that "mission accomplished" moment on the carrier was all about? Here's the problem. This Iraq deal can't be won militarily. If that were true it would have been over 5 years ago. Its far more complex and because of that, bringing it to a conclusion does not fall into a simple victory/defeat equation. Iraq as a functioning democracy? If thats the goal, it would require an American presence for the next 100 years, but when did nation building in Iraq become the goal? How do we measure that? The republican definition of victory in Iraq keeps shifting and McCain isn't bringing any clarity to it either. That strategic blurriness is one reason American's don't support this conflict. Oh yeah, and McCain has now issued a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

The Taliban threat in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced.

Little straight talk here. Afghanistan is geopolitically irrelevant to the United States. Nation building there is no more needful than it is in Iraq and its a damn sight more difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. The Soviets couldn't pacify the country with three times the manpower on the ground we have committed. A walking relic and war college graduate like McCain ought to be taking that little lesson from history. Beyond making sure that its not a staging ground for terrorist networks, there is no strategic value or reason to engage in nation building there for the United States. The Taliban, while clearly a nasty bunch, pose no strategic threat to the United States, sans their Al Queda connection, so who gives a flying rip about them?

There is not a single policy specific in the whole damn speech. There is maybe the suggestion of a policy here and there. But if this weirdly constructed speech was intended to show the wisdom of McCain contrasted to the inexperience of Obama, he didn't demonstrate superior policy chops in my boook.