2.13.2008

"100 Years" - The Gross Distortion of McCain's Comment on Iraq

I'm really growing weary of the shallowness of those who keep parroting, mocking the McCain phrase "100 years" with exlamations of disbelief and shocked disdain. Gasp - how could he say such a thing?

While an admittedly inadvisable turn of phrase on McCain's part, the words are being considered almost exclusively out of context and without any consideration of the underlying reality of U.S. foriegn policy that McCain is getting at (stripping away a lot of bs and basing his observation on U.S. historical and present day examples). Here's the actual clip.

His comment came in light of a distinction - he doesn't want the U.S. to be "mired" in Iraq for 100 years. He does think a U.S. military presence there in the long run - but seemingly not of the current size, though (based on the troop level decreases post-conflict in the examples he cites) - shouldn't shock the American conscience given our other analogous longstanding deployments elsewhere around the globe.

It's about reality, about the details. McCain's explication of the statement is anything but off the wall - it demonstrates a better understanding of U.S. military and global history, as well as Middle East politics, than I've seen from either remaining Democratic contender.

Having troops stationed in a relatively stable location versus a precarious, deadly one is an assumption inherent in the statement about troops remaining in Iraq for 100 years. A sustained presence with minimal casualities or, hopefully, no causualties, is worthwhile in his mind. I can at least see the logic there - and refuse to simply guffaw in shallow, dismissive, cocksure disgust like one of the tools in the latest viral Youtube clip. As dusk falls on the Bush era, the bar is apparently set quite low when it comes to making a substantive campaign policy critique - ironically, the oversimplicity of the left's critique of McCain mirrors the precise oversimplification at the root of many of Bush's errors.

In sum, as I observed earlier in the comments over at Hippie Perspective, responding to one "Blondie":

Your knee-jerk reaction to the phrase bandied about without any of its accompanying nuance or historical background is more disturbing than McCain's actual comment.

He pointed out that we've had troops in Germany (Edit: *actually Korea in the clip) and Japan since World War II. It's the same as many places - South Korea, Guantanamo and Puerto Rico since the Spanish American War of 1898. It is, as he says, an American hatred of casualties, not actual troop presence, that has long motivated and shaped our stationing of troops overseas.

Here's another example of McCain's claim to "straight talk" harms him just as much as it helps him. His comment is not palatable as a soundbite in the modern political context because people think it means McCain wants the same number of troops in Iraq with the same rate of casualties for a century.

It's a very shallow interpretation of his nuanced view.

Even Hillary and Barack, with their admission last night that they want to keep some force to protect the embassy, might require what amounts, in the end, to pretty much the same thing - a smaller but sustained presence.

If you want to disagree, even then, with the actual substance of what McCain said in context, go right ahead. Someone could do so from a Ron Paul Old Right perspective with ease.

Otherwise, don't just drop your jaw without looking at the context to see how the comment is anything but absurd.

Barack Obama will tell you what you want to hear. But the hurdles of military logistical and geopolitical realities would likely render his platitudes just that - platitudes. Both he and Hillary want to keep a minimal force of U.S. military strength to protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in the long run, as Obama admitted at an earlier Debate. I would submit that's not necessarily all that divergent from the reduced force McCain has in mind, what he foresees being in Iraq for what may amount to 100 years. And I also haven't seen Obama or Clinton putting forward legislation to permanently pull existing deployed troops out of various non-Iraq nations (please correct me if I'm wrong - one might contort an anti-Guantanamo vote into such a stance).

If Democrats want to criticize McCain's vision, then they should do so in a less disingenuous manner (I actually think Obama would be up to the task if he chose to take the high ground and appeal to thinking people). I would expect the same standard of Republicans who would try to oversimplify Obama's healthcare plan as straight up socialized medicine in a critique.

For now, the McCain soundbyte is being presented in a vacuum. It's been dumbed down. And it's really getting annoying.