Friday, February 27, 2009

John McCain Is Back, and We Welcome Him

For anyone who cares about Afghanistan (remember that other War?), John McCain's speech to the American Enterprise Institute is worth a read. Whether you're a lefty or righty, it's hard not to listen to this guy and not believe we would have been better off with him at the helm the past eight years — we'll agree to disagree on the next four. Some things might not have been different enough for some, but it's hard to think they would been worse.
This is what we need. Leaders willing to give the occasional sober assessment of the situation and to make the right changes until they get it right.
The problem in Afghanistan today is not innate xenophobia or hostility to the West. It is our own failed policies that are the problem. We have tried to win this war without enough troops, without sufficient economic aid, without effective coordination, and without a clear strategy. The ruinous consequences should come as no surprise.
Let's get this out there before objections are shouted out. Yes, one big reason there weren't enough troops in (or focus on) Afghanistan was because of the other War the man championed. Can we move on?

But unlike others who tout numbers of enemy killed as a measure of success, he openly admits this doesn't count for much.
Although we succeeded in killing numerous terrorist leaders through this approach — including the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the insurgency continued to grow in strength and violence. It was not until we changed course and applied a new approach — a counterinsurgency strategy focused on providing basic security for the population — that the cycle of violence was broken and al Qaeda was seriously damaged.
So ignore the repeated mention of the surge (election's over, John). We've got a President willing to refocus on Afghanistan and commit more troops; a chance to get our allies to finally contribute more now that Bush and his ham-handed diplomacy are gone (think Obama can actually get them to pony up?); and a thoughtful opposition leader more or less on the same page.

Hope? Bipartisanship? Maybe? The good will and support won't last forever.
None of this will be easy. While today Afghanistan is seen by many as "the good war" and the one into which the dispatch of thousands of additional American troops can go mostly uncontested, this day may soon pass. It is possible — indeed likely — that sometime in the near future, perhaps a year from now, as the fighting in Afghanistan increases, the costs grow more dear, and casualties become more numerous and more visible, that the will to finish this mission will dramatically erode.
Let's get it right while we've got the chance. Let's hope Obama keeps this guy in the loop.


Unknown said...

Quite the Mavericky speech - he was a much better candidate in 2000 than in 2008. How W bubbled to the top I will never understand. We still most likely would have had 9/11, our economy still would have dropped and the levees still would have broken but if I had to bet, under McMaverick we would have caught Bin Laden, not wasted billions in Iraq and got the people some water and food

Mithridates said...

You're right, Ontri. Prominent moderate Republicans have always demanded that people get their basic necessities.

Unknown said...

Good point ... do you think he considers steroids a basic necessity?

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