Conservatives continue to complain when people bring up Sen. John McCain’s support of a 100-year military presence in Iraq. We don’t want 100 year of war, they insist. They just want our troops to, in McCain’s words, “maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world.” So, they demand McCain’s words be taken in context.
Fine. Let’s go to the videotape!
The problem for conservatives is: to take those words in context invites a broader foreign policy debate whether or not it’s sensible and desirable to install permanent military bases in Iraq.
That’s not a debate conservatives are likely to win. In a recent CBS poll, 68% of Americans are only “willing to have large numbers of U.S. troops remain in Iraq” for one or two years. Only 6% are willing to have our troops there for more than 5 years, let alone 100.
This is not just about public sentiment. On policy grounds, the goal of a 100-year “presence in a very volatile part of the world,” is inherently destabilizing and damaging to national and global security.
Polling of Iraqis shows a direct link between opposition among the Iraqi people to permanent bases and support among the Iraqi people for attacks on US troops. And as our own intelligence community explains, factors fueling the “jihadist movement” include “fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness.” In turn, “the Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists.”
That’s why the policy of permanent occupation has been so destabilizing and detrimental to the fight against terrorism.
Claiming a 100-year occupation in Iraq would be like Germany or Korea reveals an immense lack of foreign policy knowledge, judgment and vision. The situations and political dynamics have absolutely no similarity.
Furthermore, it makes no sense for conservatives to say we will only stay in Iraq for 100 years if Americans aren’t being harmed and killed. Americans have been getting harmed and killed for five years, yet that doesn’t seem to dampen the conservative desire for a permanent occupation.
Despite the weakness of the conservative foreign policy argument, embodied in McCain’s “100 Years” remarks, they are trying to get as many people as possible to see and hear those remarks, repeatedly whining to the media that the remarks are being taken out of context. The conservative blog RedState is now calling on its readers to complain to specific reporters for inaccurate reporting, when as you can see, that reporting was a completely accurate depiction of McCain’s position, referring to it as an “100 year occupation” or being “in Iraq for 100 years.” (Feel free to contact the reporters on their list and say, “You got it just right! Ignore the conservative complainers.”)
Some have at times made a short-cut and characterized McCain’s position as “100 years of war.” Sure, it’s more exact, and preferable, to say McCain backed a 100-year military presence. But you can certainly make the argument that a policy goal of a 100-year occupation will bring you 100 years of war.
And as I noted in a recent bloggingheads.tv appearance with the Heritage Foundation’s Conn Carroll, conservatives do not accuse each other of lying when they characterize proposals for troop withdrawal from Iraq as “surrender.” Here’s our exchange:
BS: Is it a lie and a distortion when John McCain says that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton want to “surrender” in Iraq?
BS: Why? Have they openly said, “I would like to surrender in Iraq today”? Is that what they say?
CC: Well, there’s no one to surrender to.
CC: But, saying you’re going to — well, we can get into the details of that in a bit — but saying you’re automatically, no matter what happens in 2009, going to start bringing a brigade home every month, definitely signals that whatever enemies we do have in Iraq have succeeded in getting us out of there on their terms.
BS: That is McCain’s interpretation and characterization of what that policy would be. It is not Obama’s or Clinton’s interpretation.
Just as McCain would say, “I think we can have a 100-year permanent military presence that would just be hunky-dory,” the Democratic, liberal interpretation of that is: that is effectively going to bring you a 100-year war.
Conservatives have been characterizing proponents of withdrawal of being “Surrendercrats” for years, without being called liars by the media. They do not want the traditional media to hold candidates and advocates to a consistent standard. They just don’t want people to be able to make the simple connection between a 100-year occupation and 100 more years of destabilizing war.
Their problem is their pushback requires hearing McCain’s full remarks, which only serves to make that connection easier, and make the choice between a progressive and a conservative foreign policy clearer.
For more on a progressive foreign policy, check out Making Sense.