Obama responded to McCain’s snide accusations that he didn’t know about Iraq because he hadn’t been there in two years with customary grace and vision – by rising above them, and announcing he will not only be visiting Iraq, but Afghanistan as well.
Obama has said before he was considering a trip, but his comment to reporters Monday was his first clear confirmation. He said more details will be announced shortly, and that he also plans a visit to Afghanistan.
The inclusion of Afghanistan is politically wise for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is that it raises the stakes with McCain. I considered it a foolish expectation that a candidate visit a war zone, but now that expectations game plays in Obama’s favor, demanding that McCain announce a trip to Afghanistan in order to keep pace.
More importantly, it underscores Obama’s message and strategic outlook that Afghanistan is as critical – if not more so – as Iraq in the War on Terror.
It has always struck me as somewhat ironic that the very personification of the War on Terror’s objective, Osama bin ladin, has been able to cool his heels and operate with virtual impunity in Afghanistan’s border regions outskirts, without raising the ire of the most fervid supporters of the war. Considering the tendency – even the eagerness – to invoke the specter of 9/11 when challenged in their foreign policy beliefs, the right-wing has been stunningly numb to Osama’s continued prosperity.
This best change. It has to. And yet, we do not see it changing with McCain.
First off, we don’t hear McCain’s rhetoric changing from the Bush administration’s standard saws. Just today, his campaign criticized Obama for a “September 10th mindset.” That is a profoundly empty statement, not only relying that the listener react emotionally rather than rationally, but requiring they not question it.
For instance, the particular issue McCain contrasts with Obama on was the matter of whether Guantanamo detainees should have Constitutional legal protections or not. Now mind you, all of our prisoners customarily do, foreign or not. And the administration has made plain that the Gitmo crowd were not covered by the Geneva Convention like an enemy army would be. Mind you, the majority of detainees have been found to have had no links to terrorism, instead having been turned in for money by mercenaries or rival governments.
So in essence, Obama was criticized for giving the captives some form of legal rights, whereas McCain considered the smart, proper thing to do was to give them no rights at all.
If this position wasn’t cynical and stupid enough, McCain’s comments on Afghanistan raise further questions as to how sensible he is about matters of war. Asked by conservative media figure Michael Smerconish why we couldn’t invade the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas to pursue bin Ladin, McCain tried to sound erudite and reasonable:
“…there is a reason why [the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region] hasn’t been governed since Alexander the Great. They are ruled by about, as my understanding, 13 tribal entities and nobody has ever governed them.”
Unfortunately for McCain, that explanation is neither erudite or reasonable. In the first case, it’s not erudite because that area has, in fact, been effectively pacified, by rulers from the aforementioned Alexander, to Mahmud, to Tamerlane. In one form or another, it has proven it can be stable and prosperous.
Even more to the point is why it’s not reasonable: For while Afghanistan’s factious, backward and corrupt rulership might be a good reason not to invade in the first place, we passed that decision point awhile ago. Now we’re there, and we have a job to do.
That job is narrowly defined: Get Osama, and cut off the head of al-Qaeda. But even on that matter, McCain complains that we can’t just violate Pakistani sovereignty. To that, I ask, why not? The War on Terror was predicated on the notion that we couldn’t let little things like international law keep us from zapping the terrorists before they hit us with “another 9/11.” And while I actually refute most of that, I have to ask the question:
“If we marched some troops quietly into Pakistan’s border region for the sole purpose of hunting Osama, would Pakistan really complain all that much?”
Given that doing so would only make us isolate them further, cut off the oodles of aid money we fountain them in, and inspire us to beef up India, I doubt it. Obama does too, which is why, though McCain sneeringly accuses him of being out of touch with military matters, he remains firm on his policy that we would put boots on the ground in Pakistan whether they like it or not if it would bag us Osama.
Who’s got “September Ten Head” now, McCain?
This is precisely the kind of leadership we don’t need – the kind that so clouds the actual events of the war with the smoke of emotional drama that we don’t see that they, and not their critics, are the ones standing in the way of victory. For years under Bush, complaining about a lack of troops, armor or an exit strategy in Iraq was declared tantamount to treason, and a wide population of the American public accepted that. Now McCain is doing the same to mask his own mistakes.
He needs to get the facts right. First off, lacking a permanent troop presence in Iraq isn’t “surrender,” it’s obeying will of the government we installed and saving us hundreds of billions. Secondly, the War on Terror’s answer isn’t to hem and haw about how many tribes Afghanistan has – it’s to see its mission through by getting Osama no matter what the cost. And in that second case, it would be high time, what with the Taliban hitting back hard as ever.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that between 300 and 400 militants _ many of them foreigners _ took over the Arghandab region 10 miles northwest of Kandahar. The offensive Monday came three days after a Taliban attack on Kandahar’s prison that freed 400 insurgents.
Facts seem obscured by McCain at every turn, though; not just the military affairs he seems so vapid about. His latest answer to the agony of soaring gas prices was to beat the old drum of off-shore drilling.
Whether you oppose the moratorium or not, hoping to increase America’s 3% share of world oil to 3.25% or even 4% at the expense of our ailing oceans is not going to affect oil prices much. Furthermore, it would be ten years before any major output from offshore drilling could be expected.
Waiting a decade to shift our control of the market by 1% isn’t a plan to help the economic pain of today. It’s pushing an agenda through a gimmick while letting people continue to get screwed.
That – on the Iraq he wants to occupy despite its people’s will and so claims no less will be victory; on the Afghanistan he ignores even though our greatest enemy lives there and attacks with impunity; on Constitutional rights, economy, immigration – seems McCain’s only strategy.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama will be heading for the war front, with a lead in the polls and the solutions to make it worthwhile.