Contrasts on Iraq
One of the unfortunate things about this early Presidential campaign is the assumption on both sides that nothing has changed in Iraq. Both parties seem to be under the impression that strategies designed last year are still practical today. However, changes on the ground have made both the Democratic Iraq strategy and the McCain strategy outdated.
John McCain’s Iraq strategy is to deploy a troop surge. A perfectly good strategy, except that it has already been done. It worked. Al-Qaeda of Iraq is reeling. Violence is down. Public opinion in Iraq is starting to shift towards America. John McCain was perhaps the earliest proponent of the surge, and can be proud that his strategy worked.
But we need more now. The Democrats were right to want a plan for withdrawal from Iraq, but they went about it wrong. We cannot simply pull out—but we should have some strategy to leave, eventually. McCain has rarely mentioned any ideas he may have regarding this goal.
We still have over 70,000 troops in Germany, a holdover from World War II. (In comparison, we have around 160,000 in Iraq and about 30,000 in Afghanistan). McCain, presumably does not want a similar situation in Iraq. We should ensure that Iraq has a functional government before we leave, but that entails making the creation of a functional government there a priority. The Democrats were correct when they pointed out that the Iraqi government is doing a very poor job. (Almost as poor, actually, as the job the Democrats themselves are doing).
McCain’s Iraq strategy is excellent, but incomplete, given the results of the surge. The strategies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are incomplete, outdated, and misconceived. They clearly have no clue as to the conditions in Iraq. In fact, they don’t seem sure of what their own plans would entail. Both plans involve ending the war, but have idea of how to accomplish that goal. Both want to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, except for the ones they will keep to protect our embassy and diplomats. And the ones stabilizing Iraq (which they will somehow do on the way out). Plus the ones going after Al-Qaeda. It makes you wonder what they think our troops are doing now.
Then, both would start up some diplomatic initiatives. It is not clear why, if we have no military presence there, any Iraqi leader would care about what we would have to say. And Obama and Hillary don’t plan on just giving the odd bit of advice, either—Obama would call a constitutional convention, which he would not adjourn until an agreement had been reached. Obama and Hillary seem to be under the impression that the warlords and terrorists fighting (although they are not fighting so much anymore, thanks to the surge) actually care what the others have to say. They don’t.
Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s plan will not work. John McCain’s has. McCain needs to expand on his Iraq strategy. However, he has been right so far. It is very probable that the next phase of his Iraq strategy will be equally successful.