Like most Americans, I find primary debates about as interesting as watching toenails grow. Sure, it's important in the pre-primary stage for the candidates within a party to differentiate themselves from their competition. However, it's much more important for candidates to play out the actual debate they will be having once they are chosen as primary candidates, or elected to office. Such a discussion would happen with the other party.
This Sunday's Meet The Press hosted a real debate between Republican and Democrat, Senator John McCain faced off with former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry. What struck me most immediately was the approach to the discussion between the two candidates. As I have said before, I tend to view things in a simple fashion unlike my supposed left wing betters. I saw two points of view, one that was focused on solutions and winning, and one that was bitter, angry at the past, and using terms like redeployment as a pseudonym for quitting. I'm sure even the most left wing of my readers can guess which one was which.
McCain's opening comments:
"The U.S. strategy in Iraq should be to defeat al-Qaeda, to do everything we can to reverse the increasing influence of Iran in Iraq, and to achieve or move towards the goal of military security and a functioning government."
Kerry's opening comments were a bit longer, and not quite as clear:
"Well, the Bush-McCain strategy of escalating our troops in the middle of a civil war has no relationship directly to what you need to do to resolve the civil war. So you can put additional troops in and secure a small area here or there, but everybody knows there are not enough troops to be able to secure all of the areas you need to secure and, most importantly, it does absolutely nothing to resolve the fundamental differences, Tim. A policy of putting more troops in and staying is a policy for staying. It is not a policy for winning or for changing the equation. And the fact is that over the last four and a half years, they’ve had ample opportunity to make any of the fundamental political decisions that really don’t relate to security. An oil revenue law does not take security to be passed. A de-Baathification law does not take security to be passed. It takes political will. They haven’t shown the political will. We have to change the fundamental equation and create leverage in our relationship.
"Second major point, this is making us weaker in the war on terror. It is emboldening Iran, empowering Iran, empowering Hamas, empowering Hezbollah. The United States has lost leverage in the region. We need a better policy, and there is a better one."
When asked the specifics of the better policy:
"The better policy is to re-establish that leverage, is to make it clear to the Iraqis that we are leaving over a period of time."
First, staying is not a policy for winning? I'll make the obvious point that we can't win if we arent there. Further, to suggest that security isn't needed for various laws to be pased is simply insane, especially considering that many on the left have been complaining that our main failure has been with handling the security within Iraq after toppling Hussein. It's quite clear that without security, law doesn't mean a whole lot.
Further, it's worth noting that Iran, Hammas and others are embolded in Iraq because of statements like these from John Kerry, and no other reason. They are not emboldened when they hear comments from people like John McCain.
After McCain cited that the vast consensus between experts including General Zinni, Zowcroft, Jones, Henry Kissenger and others was that setting a date for withdrawl will have negative consequences for security in Iraq, Kerry responded with the following:
"John (McCain) keeps using the word 'withdrawal,' that, that, you know, a, a fixed date withdrawal is somehow going to abandon Iraq. We’re not talking about abandoning Iraq. We’re talking about changing the mission and adjusting the mission so that the bulkier combat troops are withdrawn, ultimately, within a year, but that you are continuing to provide the basic backstop support necessary to finish the training, so they stand up on their own, and you are continuing to chase al-Qaeda.