Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Defending McCain Makes Him Sound Even Scarier

You may have heard about the post by Zachary Roth on the website of the Columbia Journalism Review which criticizes the Obama campaign for the allegedly unfair way it has been using the McCain "100 years in Iraq" quotation, as well as the media for not "calling out" Obama on the distortion.

This has now become quite a cause celebre among pundits on the right, who are understandably anxious to find some way of neutralizing McCain's incredibly stupid comment before the fall campaign begins in earnest. Many are now using Roth as ammunition, using the predictable "even the liberal Columbia Journalism Review" framing to make Roth's post seem like an unanswerable, devastating blow.

Personally, I think Roth is very wrong on this one. I explained my reasons in a comment on the CJR site:
Okay, so McCain is in favor of our troops remaining in Iraq for 100 years "so long as American troops are not being injured or killed." How is this magically supposed to start happening? And since Americans ARE being injured and killed now, why is it okay with McCain that they are in Iraq (if that is his pre-condition)? On the one hand, McCain says we have to stay in Iraq now because there is fighting going on. On the other hand, he also says we should stay indefinitely provided there is no fighting going on. Under what circumstances, exactly will our troops come home? Sounds like the only possible answer is "never."
Not surprisingly, my comment drew a response from someone named padikiller, an irascible right-winger who entertains himself by reading CJR and then writing harrassing comments attacking the writers on grounds that are usually transparently specious.

In this case, of course, he is defending the CJR writer. And what he wrote is actually, in a funny way, quite accurate and revealing. Here's padikiller's comment:
Kweberlit pondered

"Okay, so McCain is in favor of our troops remaining in Iraq for 100 years "so long as American troops are not being injured or killed." How is this magically supposed to start happening?"

padikiller schools

The same way it happened in Germany, Italy and Japan (countries we still occupy more than 60 years after WWII).

First we kick the living crap out of the opposition until they can't or won't fight anymore... Then we install an American-friendly government based on a constitution we write and cram down their throats... And finally we babysit the Iraqis at gunpoint while we toss just enough money at them to keep them quiet...

What's so hard to understand about this?... Works like a charm...
One could quibble with some of padikiller's assertions here. For example, while it is true that there are US soldiers stationed in Germany, Italy, and Japan today, I doubt that any of these countries would consider themselves to be "occupied" by the US. But this aside, I think padikiller is probably right in his description of what it would take to create "peace" in Iraq on the terms that McCain and other right-wingers would find acceptable.

There's just one problem: Doing what he describes would take at least half a million soldiers (three to four times the number we currently have on the ground, which is itself an unsustainable force); it would escalate the economic costs way beyond the two-to-three trillion dollars we are already spending; it would produce a huge increase in US and Iraqi casualties; and, of course, it would bring with it no guarantees that the end result would be a peaceful, democratic Iraq allied with the US.

The entire plan, in short, is nuts. And there is zero evidence that it would be supported by any more than ten to twenty percent of the American public--if that.

So padikiller, and Zachary Roth, may be quite right. It's unfair to characterize McCain as a warmonger on the basis of his 100-years remark. He's not a warmonger--just completely insane. That seems to be the only logical alternative.

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