Monday, April 16, 2007

John McCain and Iraq

Below you will find my edit and my emphasis of the remarks made by Senator John McCain on April 11, 2007 at VMI. I am in agreement with both Senator McCain's analysis and approach to today's situation in Iraq.

The McCain plan for Iraq today (which basically endorses President Bush's "surge" plan) is the best plan for Iraq in this interim period until the next election.

In the 2008 election the American people will have a chance to choose a new Commander in Chief. I trust that we will be able make a reasoned, logical decision between two (or more) candidates who will offer clear direction to take in the middle east.

Between today and January, 2009, I want to place our trust with General Petraeus and the commanders on the ground in Iraq. I also do not want to weaken or usurp the powers entrusted to the President under the Constitution. I certainly don't want Nancy Pelosi as the Pretender in Chief.

To those who feel President Bush has betrayed that trust, then begin the steps necessary for impeachment. But, until you replace the President, you must allow the President and General Petraeus to do their jobs.

To read or to watch John McCain's complete speech,
click here. Again, what follows below is highly edited to reflect my exact views, and all emphasis is mine.

It is the right strategy. General Petraeus literally wrote the book on counter insurgency. He is a determined, resourceful and bold commander. Our troops, many of whom have served multiple tours in Iraq, are performing with great skill and bravery. But the hour is late and we should have no illusion that success is certain.

But having been a critic of the way this war was fought and a proponent of the very strategy now being followed, it is my obligation to encourage Americans to give it a chance to succeed. To do otherwise would be contrary to the interests of my country and dishonorable.

Many in Washington have called for an end to our involvement in Iraq. Yet they offer no opinion about the consequences of this course of action beyond a vague assurance that all will be well if the Iraqis are left to work out their differences themselves.

It is obviously true that no military solution is capable of doing what the Iraqis won't do politically. But, my friends,
no political solution has a chance to succeed when al Qaeda is free to foment civil war and Iraqis remain dependent on sectarian militias to protect their children from being murdered.

America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11. By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse.

In Iraq today, terrorists have resorted to levels of barbarism that shock the world, and we should not be so naive as to believe their intentions are limited solely to the borders of that country. We Americans are their primary enemy, and we Americans are their ultimate target.

A power vacuum in Iraq would invite further interference from Iran at a time when Tehran already feels emboldened enough to develop nuclear weapons, threaten Israel and America, and kidnap British sailors. If the government collapses in Iraq, which it surely will if we leave prematurely, Iraq's neighbors, from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, will feel pressure to intervene on the side of their favored factions. This uncertain swirl of events could cause the region to explode and foreclose the opportunity for millions of Muslims and their children to achieve freedom. We could face a terrible choice: watch the region burn, the price of oil escalate dramatically and our economy decline, watch the terrorists establish new base camps or send American troops back to Iraq, with the odds against our success much worse than they are today.

To enumerate the strategic interests at stake in Iraq does not address our moral obligation to a people we liberated from Saddam Hussein's tyranny. I suspect many in this audience, and most members of Congress, look back at America's failure to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda with shame. I know I do. And yet I fear the potential for genocide and ethnic cleansing in Iraq is even worse. The sectarian violence, the social divisions, the armaments, the weakened security apparatus of the state - all the ingredients are there. Unless we fight to prevent it, our withdrawal will be coupled with a genocide in which we are complicit.

What struck me upon my return from Baghdad is the enormous gulf between the harsh but hopeful realities in Iraq, where politics is for many a matter of life and death, and the fanciful and self-interested debates about Iraq that substitute for statesmanship in Washington.

In Iraq, American and Iraqi soldiers risk everything to hold the country together, to prevent it from becoming a terrorist sanctuary and the region from descending into the dangerous chaos of a widening war.

In Washington, where political calculation seems to trump all other considerations, Democrats in Congress and their leading candidates for President, heedless of the terrible consequences of our failure, unanimously confirmed our new commander, and then insisted he be prevented from taking the action he believes necessary to safeguard our country's interests.

In Iraq, hope is a fragile thing, but all the more admirable for the courage and sacrifice necessary to nurture it.

In Washington, cynicism appears to be the quality most prized by those who accept defeat but not the responsibility for its consequences.
Before I left for Iraq, I watched with regret as the House of Representatives voted to deny our troops the support necessary to carry out their new mission. Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender? In Iraq, only our enemies were cheering. A defeat for the United States is a cause for mourning not celebrating.
And determining how the United States can avert such a disaster should encourage the most sober, public-spirited reasoning among our elected leaders not the giddy anticipation of the next election.

Democrats who voted to authorize this war, and criticized the failed strategy that has led us to this perilous moment, have the same responsibility I do, to offer support when that failure is recognized and the right strategy is proposed and the right commanders take the field to implement it or, at the least, to offer an alternative strategy that has some relationship to reality.

Democrats argue we should redirect American resources to the real war on terror, of which Iraq is just a sideshow. But whether or not al Qaeda terrorists were a present danger in Iraq before the war, there is no disputing they are there now, and their leaders recognize Iraq as the main battleground in the war on terror. Today, al Qaeda terrorists are the ones preparing the car bombs, firing the Katyusha rockets, planting the IEDs. They maneuver in the midst of Iraq's sectarian conflict, sparking and fueling the horrendous violence, destroying efforts at political reconciliation, killing innocents on both sides in the hope of creating a conflagration that will cause Americans to lose heart and leave.

Some argue the war in Iraq no longer has anything to do with us; that it is a hopelessly complicated mess of tribal warfare and sectarian conflict. The situation is complex, and very difficult. Yet from one perspective it is quite simple. We are engaged in a basic struggle: a struggle between humanity and inhumanity; between builders and destroyers.

Consider our other strategic challenges in the region: preventing Iran from going nuclear; stabilizing Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban; the battle for the future of Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others; protecting Israel's security; the struggle for Lebanon's independence. Does any honest observer believe those challenges will be easier to confront and at lesser cost in American blood and treasure if the United States accepts defeat in Iraq?

We all agree a military solution alone will not solve the problems of Iraq. There must be a political agreement among Iraqis that allows all groups to participate in the building of their nation, to share in its resources and to live in peace with each other. But without greater security imposed by the United States military and the Iraqi Army, there can be no political solution. As Americans and Iraqis sacrifice to provide that security, Iraq's leaders must do the hard work of political reconciliation. We can help them get there, but we cannot assume their responsibilities. Unless they accept their own obligations to all Iraqis, we will all fail, and America, Iraq and the world will have to live with the terrible consequences. We are giving Iraq's leaders and people the chance to have a better future, but they must seize it.

In the many mistakes we have made in this war, a few lessons have become clear. America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, and unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success. We did not meet this responsibility initially. We are trying to do so now.

I know the pain war causes. I understand the frustration caused by our mistakes in this war. We, who are willing to support this new strategy, and give General Petraeus the time and support he needs, have chosen a hard road. But it is the right road. It is necessary and just.

See also my essay from back on March 13, 2007: Arrogant Americans Determined To Go It Alone




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