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.
If this viewpoint weren't so sad, it would actually be funny. Kerry goes on to make the same comments about how Al Qaeda was not in Iraq before the Iraq war, as if that matters, and continues to blame the Bush Administration for the worlds ills. John McCain responds:
"You know what John (Kerry) is advocating is to go back to the failed tactic of before. And whether al-Qaeda was there before or not, al-Qaeda is there now. Al-Qaeda is there now. Who blew up the mosque in Samarra? Who just went in the northern part of Iraq and killed 500 innocent impoverished people? Who is it that continues to set off most of these suicide bombs to try to increase the sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia? It’s al-Qaeda. It’s al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"General Petraeus has said, and I take his word for it, Iraq is now the central front in the war against al-Qaeda. Now, John (Kerry) and his friends don’t believe that. I believe the compelling evidence on the ground indicates that clearly, and to, and to say we’re going to have a date for withdrawal in, in, in complete ignorance of the facts on the ground, in my view, is a recipe for failure and disaster."
Well said Senator McCain. Too bad he's such an uncompelling candidate, because McCain has the honesty and guts to be a really good president. However, the reason I tend to side with the GOP is because he is echoing the same, sober viewpoint that most in the GOP tend to base their platform on. No cutsey wordplay such as redeployment, no bitter replaying of the failures of the past (even though those failures have probably hurt McCain more than any other GOP candidate) which McCain admits is a failed tactic of the past.
But Kerry isn't done ensuring that I won't vote Democrat in 2008, he drops this lovely gem on us:
"You wouldn’t negotiate the sale of your home the way we’re negotiating in Iraq. There’s no leverage. We’ve said we’re there. You have to create uncertainty. You have to create leverage. And the only way to do that is to say to them, 'This mission is transitioning. You have to take responsibility for this security over the course of the next year, and we’re going to take a different position.'"
So in a country that is besiged with international terrorists and is on the cusp of either winning or losing their identity, John Kerry's solution is to create additional uncertainty that we may just leave the Iraqis on their own? The reality is that with this debate, we've already created that uncertainty in the minds of our enemies. This is precisely why Iran and Al Qaeda continue to operate within the borders of Iraq — they smell the possibility of an American defeat there. They'd love nothing more. More importantly, the premise of this argument is on shaky ground. It's obvious to anyone with an interest in seeing an American success in Iraq that the last thing we need in Iraq now is even more uncertainty.
If you think I am cherry picking, I ask that you read the transcript or watch the debate yourself.
One side is dealing with reality, and focused on doing what they can to win. One side represents the hard working ethic, the will to succeed, which is what has made this country great. One side is looking for real answers.
The other side is using words such as redeployment to describe leaving Iraq, even though we created the mess there and should at the very least clean it up. This side believes that the Iraqi government that we helped create is at odds with us, and can only be helped by creating an air of uncertainty. This side continues to argue the points of the past that have been rendered moot by the realities on the ground.
There is no question which side I will side with.