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February 07, 2008



Tony, I'm glad you spend so much time reaching your conclusions, which makes it all the more surprising that you seem to misunderstand what the US is doing in Iraq. Let's just be blunt: we are filling a security vacuum there. Now, you may insist that we should just get out and let the Iraqis fight, but the premise there is that it's just Iraqis. It's not. There are foreign fighters vying for power, both on the Sunni insurgent side and the Shi'a militia side, which is apparently backed by the Iranians to an extent. This is the chief geopolitical challenge of our present times; the regional and global implications of failure are significant, and will affect the US whether we're in Iraq or not.

The government there has requested our assistance. The UN has mandated our assistance. The security gains are real, and we're finally seeing some political progress in the form of 3 new and critical laws.

I don't think McCain's age is an issue. If you've seen his 96 year old mother, she's pretty darn vigorous, and so is McCain. He also has something Obama really lacks, which is experience and an understanding of the world. I further believe that Hillary Clinton lacks experience; I don't buy the argument that being first lady really counts. In fact, I would suggest that Obama has more legislative experience, because he legislated in Illinois for seven years.

Going back in Iraq, I'm not asking you to listen to me or other "keyboard generals." Just listen to the real generals and I think you'll see things in a new way.


My response is this:
I would rather not vote than vote for McCain, who in my mind is a third-tier candidate; he lost me when he apologized to Falwell, he is too old, I don't favor his temperament, and there is not a lot of reason to think that he will necessarily be an effective leader, with a minimum of political capital. I pay little attention to keyboard generals and other missionaries when it relates to foreign policy, because I arrive at my position by doing hours and hours of research, and by weighing opposing points of view. I have several friends in the military who regularly share their views with me, and I have access to more than one college faculty for backup. Before I reach a conclusion, I debate my position with a former captain of the debating team at Cambridge ( the English one), so I am comfortable with my comments. Obama does not impress me as a possible president. Clinton is being badly treated by the media because she is a woman. I find that appalling. I believe that al-Qaeda has been relocating outside of Iraq for some time, which helps to explain the relative quiet there, and which may have more to do with their relative mobility than with our surge successes. They are in Pakistan in greater numbers, and Pakistan has a verified nuclear weapons capability.(!) We destabilized Iraq when we made our "shock and awe" entrance, and should have been out of there long ago. The war looks to be quite asymmetrical to me in terms of resources and finances, and that gives me no reason for comfort. We are fighting tribes now, not a coherent army that represents a state. We have developed a very utilitarian approach to torture that we would not support if we were neutral. Our leaders won't commit themselves to a position. There will be costly fallout from the return of all these troops at any time, and the gov't is doing a less-than-commendable job of preparing for psychological care. Congress is wasting my hard-earned money on a couple of professional jocks, one of whom isn't man enough to stand before the person he deposed against; I can think of several more important areas for Congress to direct their attention. I think that the voting public has too short a memory regarding the history of this country, and this year's voters are nowhere near as well-informed as those in '68, '72, and '76, when we had a draft. Mandatory national service in some capacity for a 3-year minimum might change that. We have created a privatized military empire which answers to no elected leaders, at non-accountable costs. Tens of thousands of contractors are working on military and homeland security projects, yet over a million aliens walk in every year. Half of the illegals in the US came here legally, and overstayed their "expiration dates." Go to any nail spa at the mall of your choice and tell me how many non-Asians work there. Thousands of qualified retirees are available and willing to do much-needed volunteer work, and a tax deduction or credit would be a welcome incentive. We can give away welfare dollars- why not reward the others? Explain to me why I should blithely ignore the consequences of the Coalition Provisional Authority's 100 Orders, which Paul Bremer instituted within 100 days of Iraq occupation. Explain why the Iraq Study Group recommended that foreign companies be in charge of developing Iraq's oil fields, (currently only 17 of 80 are being worked.) Yet Mexico nationalized their entire oil industry 1938, and is the US' #2 supplier. Show me why the IMF's conditions to providing funds to UDCs don't create untenable economic pressures on the various citizens. Tell me why $650 million was just redirected to repairing the Port of New Orleans, money that was earmarked for housing reconstruction. My major problem with these discussions rests on the way that the US is defining itself, and its mission statement that it knows what is best for the rest of the world. When OPEC decides it wants petropayments in Euros, which will be soon, and when it gets more difficult to sell our country off for $2B per day to pay the interest on the debt, the entire picture will change. And why do a majority of Americans get their news from the Daily Show and the Colbert Report?


Tony, consider the logic you're using here. We "carelessly invaded," so what's the harm in "carelessly withdrawing," right? I think this is way off base; in fact, it's precisely why Obama says, "I want to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in." We're filling a security vacuum in Iraq, and our presence partly explains the massive decline in violence in the past several months, and why Baghdad, once 8% secure, is now 75% secure.

You can say let them fight it out, but I don't think that's either morally or strategically sound. The truth is that al Qaeda and other insurgent elements are reeling, but they're not eliminated. Meanwhile, there are ceasefires in Iraq that will collapse if the US withdraws. Withdrawal is a recipe for more violence, potential genocide, regional conflagration, and, perhaps, a need for the US to return to the country.

As far as McCain goes, let's face it, this is a very tough season for Republicans. But he performs better against Clinton and Obama than any other GOP candidate, and part of that is because he appeals to independents. McCain will be very competitive, and can make a good case for himself being more experienced and prepared than, say, Obama, who was in the State Senate only four years ago and is arguably the least qualified candidate in modern times.


I happen to think that we carelessly invaded Iraq, so "carelessly withdrawing" might not be such a disaster. If the Iraqis are fighting a civil war, I suggest we stand by and let them go at it. Iraq itself was an artificial construction, so how could outsiders predict its lifespan? And if the terrorists are relocating to other countries, our GWOT strategies should be re-examined.
I agree that the Dems are creating problems for themselves, which may hold over much longer than anyone wishes; some elements of the party are hopefully looking ahead to 2012. Mona Charen wrote an interesting piece on some conservative issues with McCain ( "Why They Can't Vote For McCain" on Yahoo News ), so Reps aren't all that excited about the way their side looks. McCain vs Clinton somehow reminds me of Bobby Riggs vs Billy Jean King in 1973.
Of course, voter turnout remains the big problem, and even though the percentages are higher this year, http://elections.gmu.edu/Voter_Turnout_2008_Primaries.htm , citizens are passing up a valuable opportunity to get involved.


I understand that Democrats are worried about a protracted primary season, but I'm not sure some sort of negotiated settlement between the Obama and Clinton camps will work. Barring a big surprise, neither will have enough delegates to seal the nomination after the April 22 PA primary, and so it will come down to the superdelegates. The bigger worry for Democrats is that these superdelegates will side with the candidate who enters the convention with fewer pledged delegates.

That being said, I think we're more likely to see a Florida and Michigan do-over before the candidates reach a deal. As you know, those delegates aren't being counted, the the Obama camp reasonably argues that the rules are the rules. But, in a compromise pitch, they've suggested that those states go through a caucus for their delegates to be counted - thus, giving Hillary a shot, albeit in a format that has favored Obama. This might be sensible - Clinton has advantages on those states, yet Obama does well in the caucus format.

Of course, I personally believe that McCain succeeding Bush is not a bad thing. He comes to the table with more foreign policy experience than either Clinton or Obama, and his independent streak would be good for the country. I'm also gravely concerned about us carelessly withdrawing from Iraq.

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