McCain came to town.
I didn’t have an invite.
But reading the leftymedia’s contortions on the subject is probably almost as much fun anyway. It ranged, as usual, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Or at least from the groaningly obvious and cliche-driven to the moderately interesting.
For the former, we turn to former City Pages writer GR Anderson at the MNPost – who uncovered a real scoop:
Shocker! McCain’s visit to bring out the wealthy, protestors
GOP presidential candidate John McCain’s visit to the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis for a fundraiser this afternoon promises to be a moneyed affair: To qualify to be on the host committee, McCain’s web site says, “individuals or couples must raise or contribute $20,000.” For the less fortunate, “tickets for the Photo Opportunity & Dinner are $2,300 per person. Tickets for the Main Reception and Dinner are $1,000 per person.”
Right. As opposed to those Democrat fundraiser$, where $your $pocket $change will get you in?
Who says the economy is bad?
(I don’t have an exhaustive list, but I do know that the MNPost and the Minnesoros Independent will be calling it “Bad” until 18 months after the recovery is generally accepted as undeniable, or Barack Obama’s inauguration, whichever comes first. But I digress).
Seriously – does GR Anderson think that big-buck fundraisers are a Republican franchise?
Eric Black’s article was more interesting – or at least a little less predictable:
Senator McCain. Welcome to Minnesota. Thank you for your service. My question is about the occupation of Iraq.
I agree that some Democrats have tried to have a little too much fun with your “100 years in Iraq” quote a while back. I take you at your word that you didn’t mean 100 more years resembling the last five — 100 years of steady U.S. casualties. In explaining what you really meant, you have said that it would be fine with you if U.S. troops had a long-term presence in Iraq, like the troops have had in Germany, Japan and Korea.
Well, we’re off to a good start. That’s more honest than most of Black’s colleagues have been with that question.
Many Americans may think that sounds fine. I’m not so sure. No other country has huge military installations around the world.
But that’s a fairly recent development – not so long ago, plenty of other countries maintained genuine empires; Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and even Belgium had or have imperial possessions within my lifetime and, incidentally, Eric Black’s.
It’s not only expensive, but it smacks of imperialism.
Let’s touch on both of those assertions.
It “smacks” of imperialism, because it is – sort of – and always has been. And yet unlike every single other imperial power in history, our “imperialism” has left behind largely functional, largely democratic countries; Germany, Japan and South Korea are world leaders and, at least by their previous standards, incredibly liberal in that small-“l” way that even I approve of.
And the “expense” has to be based on costs and benefits – indeed, Black touches on that concept later, so we’ll come back to it. The “expense” of any “imperial” entanglement has to be judged against the benefits; the Cold War, for example, has to be gauged against the general good of having contained the Soviets until they collapsed.
Ask yourself how the U.S. — specifically the McCain administration — would view it if another powerful country — let’s say China for the sake of illustration — toppled the government of our neighbors — let’s say Mexico, and said that one of its goals was to leave behind a Mexican government that would be an ally of China. Let’s say China did install a Mexican government friendly to China and then reached a deal with its puppet government for a permanent military base close to our borders in order to protect what China declared to be its “vital interests” in the Americas. And then let’s say China announced that it would be fine if the bases were there for 100 years. My hunch is, the McCain administration wouldn’t like it, wouldn’t tolerate it, would view it as a threat and an act of aggression against the United States and a statement of China’s intent to dominate our hemisphere. Please correct me if I’m wrong about that.
Black is right – sort of. The Monroe Doctrine has pretty much been established policy, one we’ve enforced for almost 200 years.
Of course, the analogy makes Iran – a murderous dictatorship that has been in a de facto state of war with us for my entire adult lifetime – the moral equal of the United States. Is that a dock you wanna walk down, Eric Black?
There is, of course, another difference; China has not secured UN resolutions condemning our human rights abuses, our acts of war against China and their allies, our pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction and our defiance of previous agreements caused by our previous aggression. We don’t pose a threat to China and the rest of the world.
The parallel, Mr. Black, really isn’t there.
And I know – your analogy doesn’t depend on the parallel, necessarily. But let’s just say that some of Mr. Black’s audience doesn’t know this.
Of course, the USA is not just any country. We are the world’s only superpower. How we use that position is essential to how the rest of the world views us as we try to repair some of the damage that President Bush — and the Iraq misadventure — have done to the our image in the world.
Actually, Mr. Black, Iraq has very little to do with the world’s “elites'” views of us. There’s another entire post brewing on that subject – but suffice to say that Europe’s opinion-class have never much cared for us (except when we’ve saved them from, say, Hitler or post-war starvation) and they never really will. The left’s conceit that Europeans will generally love the US once this “misadventure” is over are, at best, wishful thinking and utterly ahistorical.
I know I’m making more assertions than posing questions here, but the question is: If, as you hope, U.S. troops will be in Iraq for 100 years, what will that do to the perception that the U.S. seeks to dominate Middle East?
A “perception” that the left and media (pardon the redundancy) are trying to reinforce in every reference to the subject?
Your reference to the long-term U.S. troop presence in Germany, Japan and Korea is designed to illustrate that U.S. troops can be present in foreign bases without facing daily combat or casualties. My question is: How soon and at what cost in blood and treasure do you believe that the situation in Iraq — specifically the situation regarding the safety and normalcy of U.S. troops in Iraq — will resemble the situations in Germany, Japan and Korea?
I can answer that for Sen. McCain; “when the sentient terrorists realize that their chances of achieving their goals aren’t worth their lives”.
And Germany, Japan and Korea are bad examples (although to a nation of people who are largely ignorant of history, they may be the best we can do). The Philippines and El Salvador are better ones; insurgencies that died off (literally and metaphorically) as the result of an extended, judicious combination of military and civil action. It took six years for the Philippines’ insurgency to tail off a century ago; El Salvador is fairly recent history. Neither accomplishment was achieved without pain; both had the good luck to be either too early or too obscure for the attentions of the modern-day American media.
It’s wonderful that the level of violence in Iraq has fallen over recent months. But more than 200 U.S. troops, and a much larger number of Iraqis, have been killed in the less than half-year of 2008 so far.
Context counts, though. The number has been falling for a year, is at its lowest level of the war so far, and seems for the moment to be continuing to fall. Everyone from Petraeus to Michael Yon says to expect a counterattack to try to influence the election, and that’s reasonable. But if the violence continues to drop, the Iraqi government continues to improve (I notice you haven’t written, Mr. Black, about the fact that the Maliki government has quietly achieved most of the 18 criteria for recognizing Iraq as a legitimate government that the Dems were howling about last year), as Al Quaeda continues to be killed off (again, the MNPost is silent), it seems reasonable to believe things will tail off over the course of years rather than decades.
I hope, as you do, that the number continues to drop and soon gets close to zero. I assume we agree that the reasons for the decline in violence are several and complex and, as Gen. Petraeus said, “fragile” and “reversible.” Do you agree, “fragile” and “reversible?”
I agree with the General that it’s best not to be overconfident – but that while the fragility is a function of a difficult Iraqi situation, the progress will “reverse” only because of decisions made in Washington DC.
I suspect we may disagree, but I believe that there is no likely benefit to ordinary Americans of the invasion and occupation of Iraq that will outweigh the costs already incurred.
Those costs are already incurred and we can’t get them back. But decisions about war, including the future policy in Iraq, cannot and should not be shielded from the logic of cost/benefit analysis.
OK. Let’s look those costs and benefits over:
Costs: 4,000-odd dead American troops, hundreds of billions of dollars. (I’m not going to count “international goodwill”, becuase for the most part that is mercurial and cultural and if it hadn’t tanked over the Iraq war, it would have over soccer rules or trade balance or Susan Lucci’s Daytime Emmy or whatever they Euros are always whinging about whenever we’re not disposing of their genocidal dictators for them).
Benefits: Iran is firmly counterbalanced. In a few years, the countries of the Middle East will very likely have a safe, stable neighbor against whom the people can find their own dictatorships and medieval baronies sorely wanting. We have a base to contest Iran’s control of – I stress this – two thirds of the world’s currently-working oil reserves, which may be of much more importance to the third world and developing nations like China and India than to us. Absent a serious US presence and counterbalance on the ground, Iran could close the Straits of Hormuz more or less at will (indeed, has been building for a decade and a half a force capable to doing that, with North Korean and Chinese anti-ship missiles and Russian submarines), with terrible effects on the US economy and potentially cataclysmic effects on the developing world.
You can, of course, easily reply that there are never any guarantees in war except that it will be bloody and awful. I agree. It’s one reason we should not get into unnecessary wars. But seriously, given the entire regional and historical context in which Iraq sits, what is your level of confidence — and how can you convince skeptical listeners to share your confidence — that the situation of U.S. troops in Iraq will resemble the situation in Germany within 20 years? Or, I don’t know, why not make it 100?
That’s easy. There’s a zero percent chance that Iraq will ever resemble any of those countries. Unlike Germany, its two primary religious factions are still in a low-level war (as opposed to “500 years ago”). Unlike Japan and Korea, Iraq is ethically as well as religiously heterodox. Unlike Germany and Japan, there was no clean, legal end to a conventional war, after which the people of both countries pretty much toed the occupier’s line.
What we can hope for, and have worked for, is that Iraq will turn into the best Iraq it can be.
So I called this “Question for Eric Black”, didn’t I? Here’s the question, then: Given continued improvement on the ground, and assuming that over the course of the next year or two the insurgency dies off to a fairly background-level problem, and that the US involvement starts to draw down (as Gen. Petraeus has said) to a small garrison of mostly civil affairs and special forces troops over the course of the next 2-5 years, what do you think Iraq is most likely to turn into. What do you think, given the above (and the above seems not all that unreasonable these days), are the best, worst and most likely cases for Iraqi civil society over the next decade or two?
Take it away.