McCain Challenges Obama on Iraq

Obama, The Clintons, and the media have tried, through constant repetition, to persuade us that the Iraq operation was always a hopeless, unjust cause and that the wrong decision can be set right by abandoning the effort and pulling out the troops as quickly as possible.

John McCain’s victory speech last night served notice that he does not accept the party line and intends to make success in Iraq a major campaign issue. Senator McCain said…

“America is at war in two countries, and involved in a long and difficult fight with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. It is of little use to Americans for their candidates to avoid the many complex challenges of these struggles by re-litigating decisions of the past.

“I will defend the decision to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime…Americans know that the next President doesn’t get to re-make that decision.

“We are in Iraq and our most vital security interests are clearly involved there. The next President must explain how he or she intends to bring that war to the swiftest possible conclusion without exacerbating a sectarian conflict that could quickly descend into genocide; destabilizing the entire Middle East; enabling our adversaries in the region to extend their influence and undermine our security there; and emboldening terrorists to attack us elsewhere with weapons we dare not allow them to possess.”


Obama’s incoherent position demonstrates his lack of commitment to anything but appeasing his anti-war base. On Obama’s web site, it says that upon becoming President, he…

“will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.”

But what if al Qaeda “attempts to build a base within Iraq” after Obama’s withdraw schedule is completed? In last week’s debate, Obama was asked if he would send troops back in to Iraq to fight Al Qaeda. His fuzzy response was…

“If al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad.”

Presumably, this means that redeployment in Iraq is at least a possibility. As Obama knows, Al Qaeda has “a base” in Iraq right now, and it had a much bigger base before the current “surge.” Indeed, Al Qaeda elements were in Iraq even before the 2003 US invasion.

Al Qaeda’s strategy is to mingle with and terrorize the local population, and thus discourage anyone from providing the intelligence a military strike force needs to identify and engage them in combat. The failed military strategy of ’05 and ’06 was similar to what Obama says he has in mind. US troops were sequestered out of sight, on large bases, and then sent out for “targeted strikes.”

The current, successful counterinsurgency strategy, known as “the surge,” has diminished al Qaeda in Iraq to a small fraction of its former strength and influence. Counterinsurgency strategy succeeds by physically stationing troops in urban neighborhoods and rural villages, where they constantly interact with the local residents, gathering intelligence. This is the only way to defeat a guerilla force like Al Qaeda that disperses its fighters among the local population. The failures of ’05 and ’06 amply demonstrate the futility of an arms-length strategy of “targeted strikes.”

Two years ago Al Qaeda leaders bragged to the world that they would drive America out of Iraq. Had they succeeded their movement would have gained priceless credibility and power in a culture where “the strong horse” is most revered, regardless of how ruthless its tactics. Instead, the surge strategies are destroying al Qaeda in Iraq, and diminishing al Qaeda’s reputation in the Middle East. Al Qaeda has become “the weak horse.”

Obama’s scheduled troop withdraw, to commence immediately, without regard for conditions on the ground, would grant al Qaeda the bragging rights our troops have, so far, denied them.

Obama and Clinton both claim to care more about the troops. But what will the effect on troop morale be if, after six years of effort, the new President transforms their hard-won progress into humiliating defeat?

1 Comment so far

  1. cnn on May 22nd, 2008

    cnn…

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