Thursday, May 15, 2008

John McCain's Iraq 2013 Fantasy Land

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 249

John McCain gave a speech today describing the policy he would pursue as president towards our military involvement in Iraq.

The speech, at least as it regards Iraq, is nothing short of fantasy. Of the commentary out on the web following the speech, none hits the mark nearly as well as the analysis published on the Huffington Post by none other than my original presidential candidate of choice, Joe Biden.

I found the following excerpt to be particularly on target:

John McCain revealed today that he has no plan -- none -- to get us out of the mess the president has created. Senator McCain said that it is important for presidential candidates to "define their objectives and what they plan to achieve not with vague language but with clarity." But especially when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, the picture he painted today of where he hopes to be by 2013 is totally divorced from reality and there is zero clarity about how he would get there. It's beyond being vague: John McCain is totally silent about how he would realize his rosy vision for 2013.

It's like saying by 2013, every American will be a millionaire and there will be peace on earth. Wishing will not make it so. The last things Americans need now are empty promises. They need, and our security demands, a concrete plan of action that brings the war in Iraq to an end without leaving chaos behind.

The entire piece can be read here.

It's good to see Joe Biden is starting to reengage in the broader political debate as we near the close of the primary calendar. His experience from years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as his devastating instinct for the Republicans' political jugular, make Biden a uniquely powerful voice in the upcoming campaign against John McCain.

Since dropping his own presidential campaign in January, Biden has remained publicly uncommitted in the nomination fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but I think that all Democrats, regardless whom they support for the nomination, can be glad that we've got Joe Biden on our side.

Talking to Iran: Bush Administration's Divided Voice

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 249

Addressing Israel's national legislative body, the Knesset, today, President Bush spoke these words:

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Rhetorically, of course, this is known as a straw man argument, in which the speaker posits an opinion held by unnamed persons, and then uses that as an occasion to discredit the argument and cast aspersion upon anyone who might disagree with them. Logically, the straw man argument is categorized as fallacious.

President Bush is an old hand at this practice, so his use of the straw man fallacy comes as no surprise. What ought to cause some astonishment, however, is that the president should engage in this tactic just one day after his own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, had this to say about Iran, one of the nations the president includes in his "Axis of Evil":

"We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them. If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us."

Setting aside, for the moment, the central question of whether Bush or Gates is espousing the better policy approach to Iran, let me ask this: is it too much to expect, even from this administration, that the president and his principal adviser on national defense to be on the same page about how to address a critical international challenge?

It is small wonder, in the circumstances, that other nations - both friendly and unfriendly - regard the prospect of diplomacy with this administration with uncertainty, and have lost confidence in the United States as a negotiating partner. Whether by design, or, as is far more likely, by inattention and incompetence, this administration shows, time and again with this as but the latest example, that it cannot be relied upon to speak with a unified voice to the international community. Let me emphasize: this is not an example of the president being contradicted by an opposition member of the House or Senate, but rather the president and his secretary of defense contradicting one another in statements made on successive days.

This appalling spectacle is yet another sad reflection upon the United States, and a further indication, as if one were needed, of the scale of the task looming before the next president of extricating the country from the mire into which George W. Bush and his administration has driven us.

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