Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama's huge win on Iraq

McCain is really running out of tricks. One thing he was really hoping to nail Obama on was the supposed success of the Iraq "surge", which he has supported ever since it was first proposed.

And it's true. Although Iraq remains a country afflicted by sectarian tension and frequent violence, the level of mayhem is nowhere near what it was only a year ago. American troop deaths are way down, and ceasefires are holding in both Sunni and Shiite areas.

Of course, the surge isn't wholly responsible for all of this; as Steve Benen summarizes, the Anbar truce was put into effect long before US troop levels increased, and the fact that most parts of Iraq have been effectively ethnically cleansed hasn't hurt either. Muqtada al Sadr has also held to a ceasefire for several months, probably in service to his own long-term goals, not any desire for peace and harmony.

The underlying problem (lack of central government power) remains, but for the moment, Iraq is in a period of relative calm.

So it's a win-win situation for McCain isn't it? Yglesias outlines it pretty well:

He'd spent, several weeks with the main theme of his campaign being, quite
literally, to criticize Barack Obama for not having been physically present in
Iraq recently. This (of course) got Obama to go to Iraq, thus setting up a
dilemma. Either Obama would survey the "progress" in Iraq and change his
position, thus making him a flip-flopper, or else he would refuse to change his
position, thus making him obstinate and out of touch with reality.

But what happens when the Prime Minister of Iraq says that Obama's withdrawal plan is a good one? It completely undercuts the two prior avenues of attack. How exactly can McCain argue with that? The Bush administration scrambled to do some damage-control (putting pressure on Maliki's office to say he was mistranslated or some other bullshit), but the damage should already be done. Maliki publicly endorsed Obama's Iraq plan (and his people made this very clear today).

I don't know if the US political media is smart enough to understand what has just happened here, but this is potentially a huge debacle for John McCain and indeed, the entire right-wing foreign policy worldview. McCain wants everyone to think that everything in Iraq is going just peachy because of the success of the surge, but at the same time, he speaks gravely about how irresponsible and reckless it would be to agree to any kind of withdrawal timeline. He can't have it both ways, especially when the fucking Prime Minister of Iraq is saying the exact opposite.

It astonishes me that so many Americans still give the Republicans the edge on foreign policy, even after a disastrous war and the total erosion of America's reputation worldwide. This should be a wake-up call.

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