Sunday, June 08, 2008

Guest post: McCain's foreign policy argument

During this campaign McCain will make essentially two arguments -

1)He supported the surge, Obama opposed it, and the surge worked.
2)He wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, Obama wants to repeal them.

I'd like to address the first point in this post.

It's true that McCain did support the surge, as a lone voice among the detractors. It's also true that Obama vocally opposed it.

The point of contention that I have in the premise is that the surge actually worked.

McCain will point to the falling number of US casualties since the surge, and especially in recent weeks. The problem with measuring the success of the surge in US casualties lies in the fact that US casualties can be completely controlled based on marching orders from commanders on the ground. If they tell their soldiers to stay out of dangerous areas, then casualties will go down. I have not looked for any evidence that this is the case, but in the court of public opinion it's likely to be far too nuanced a point to hold sway regardless. It also fails to measure overall casualties, which of course are the truest measure of the level of violence in a region. Those numbers declined in Baghdad since the surge but increased outside of Baghdad overall, yielding an average of around 2,500 people killed in Iraq per month.

Those numbers are all relatively difficult to source and numbers give Americans tired-head anyway.

A better metric would be to look objectively and see if the surge met its stated goal of reducing the levels of violence low enough to conduct the diplomatic business that had not been getting done. For that we can ask the Iraqi parliament what they think of our whole Iraq plan.

DANA ROHRABACHER: Maybe if you could just...if it's possible to answer with a yes or no, would you have preferred that the United States not have conducted the military operations it did in order to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein? Would you have preferred that we not do that now, in retrospect...

KHALAF al-ULAYYAN, Member of the Iraqi Parliament: We would prefer if it didn't happen because this led to the destruction of the country.

ROHRABACHER: So you would have preferred the United States not to have gone in and got rid of Saddam Hussein?

al-ULAYYAN: The United States got rid of one person, but they brought hundreds of persons who are worse than Saddam Hussein.

ROHRABACHER: That's a fair answer.

al-ULAYYAN: And, unfortunately, now Iran is going into Iraq, and this is under the umbrella of the American occupation of Iraq.


well, that's surely just one rogue parliamentarian. Its not as though he represents the majority of Iraqi viewpoints. I mean hey, I've John freaking Cornyn as a rep right? Why don't we see what the actual majority thinks...

So what you'll see is that unless we come up with a plan to set a specific timetable for withdrawl, the Iraqi parliament won't ratify any agreements to allow the US to continue its occupation.

I don't see this state of affairs as anything that McCain wants to trumpet. Obama opposed the war at its inception, and argued that the surge was not going to bring matters to an end here. According to the Iraqi parliament, he was right.

The majority of Iraq’s elected representatives are now on record opposing the proposed U.S.-Iraq security agreement -- which means this agreement will not be endorsed by Iraq’s legislative body as required by their constitution

We, the undersigned members of the council, wish to confirm your concerns that any international agreement that is not ratified by the Iraqi legislative power is considered unconstitutional and illegal, in accordance with the current rulings and laws of the Iraqi Republic. Furthermore, any treaty, agreement or “executive agreement” that is signed between Iraq and the United States will not be legal and will not enter the stage of implementation without first being ratified by the Council of Representatives, in accordance with Article 61 of Section Four of the Iraqi constitution, which gives the Iraqi government’s legislative power, represented by the Council of Representatives, the exclusive right to ratify international treaties and agreements.

Likewise, we wish to inform you that the majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq, in accordance with a declared timetable and without leaving behind any military bases, soldiers or hired fighters.

1 comment:

el ranchero said...

Game. Set. Match.

The "tired-head" remark made me laugh, even if it rankles my inner populist.

John McCain does not want to get into an argument with Barack Obama about Iraq. You're right in everything you said that the surge was sold specifically on the promise that it would deliver political results, and on that criterion it has failed (and frankly, I think the testimony of the parliamentarian is one of the most damning things I've seen), but I think there's also a simpler reason why McCain's arguments don't work: the American people simply are not listening anymore. They've made up their minds on Iraq, as every poll for the last year has shown. Violence "goes down" (always worded so that it doesn't account for civilian casualties), fewer troops die, Iraq fades into the background, but the number of Americans who say "it was a mistake and we should leave" remains unmoved at 60-70% even when that same poll shows Americans buying into the surge. Nobody cares if the surge reduces violence or not because we shouldn't even be there anyway, and "those people" don't want our help, and they're not ready for democracy, etc.