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What is Victory? 

by ROBERT HEROLD & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & D & lt;/span & avid Brooks, in his recent New York Times column, reassured his readers that John McCain really didn't mean what he said when he spoke of many more wars to come and staying in Iraq for a hundred years or more. Citing McCain's speech on foreign policy, Brooks draws attention to the Senator's thinly veiled criticism of President Bush's cowboy attitude towards national security challenges as well as foreign policy generally. Associating himself with -- get this --both Harry Truman and John Kennedy, McCain argued for the need to work together with allies. We are "no longer alone," he said. In a further slap at the President, McCain went on to say that America must be a "model citizen":





How we behave at home affects how we are perceived abroad. We must fight the terrorists and at the same time defend the rights that are the foundation of our society. We can't torture or treat inhumanely suspected terrorists we have captured. I believe we should close Guantanamo and work with our allies to forge a new international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & s for Iraq, McCain paraphrased Colin Powell's response to Bush upon learning that the invasion was coming: Bush breaks it, leaving America with the moral obligation to fix it. Siding with McCain, Brooks observes that while Barack Obama makes a pragmatic argument for getting out of Iraq, McCain makes the more important moral argument for staying in. But when you read McCain's speech carefully and pay close attention to his numerous clarifications of his hundred-years-in-Iraq comment, he comes off reading and sounding just a whole lot more like Obama, a whole lot less like President Bush and nothing at all like Dick Cheney.





Consider: Obama says that we must as carefully get out of Iraq as recklessly as we got in. Unlike Senator Clinton, who promises a timetable, Obama proposes to draw down troops while redeploying the remaining troops out of day-to-day harm's way. McCain, in response to a question by Tim Russert about his staying-in-Iraq-for-a-hundred-years statement, said exactly the same thing. Casualties are a problem, he said, and then he went on to say that he would move troops out of harm's way, i.e. redeployment.





Here Obama and McCain part ways. McCain continues to support the invasion and speak of "victory in Iraq." But it's a stretch to square his continued support for the invasion with his pronouncements about the importance of working with allies. McCain has often mentioned Bosnia; but Bosnia wasn't a U.S. unilateral action, it was a NATO action. So given that Bush did not have NATO support nor U.N. support for invading Iraq, is not McCain trying to square the circle? Of course he is.





As for "victory," McCain continues to support Bush's loony notion that America can make the world safe for democracy in the Middle East -- through force of arms. Obama, oddly enough, comes off sounding much more the thoughtful realist; he takes a longer, more nuanced, geopolitical perspective. For example, Obama would argue that McCain misreads Iraq and would point out that McCain's comparisons aren't relevant. For example, McCain has often, almost casually, observed that America has been in Japan, Germany and Korea for more than half a century, why not Iraq? Obama would argue that McCain fails to draw distinctions where serious differences exist. Unlike Japan, Germany and Korea, in Iraq, America remains an occupying force trying to referee a civil war.





Obama might point out that McCain, defined as he is by his military paradigm, relies on measures of success which don't tell us all that much, like the body count. Not that a diminishment of violence doesn't matter; just that taken alone it doesn't tell you that much. Obama might be informed more by his community organizing days in Chicago; he would want to consider life on the streets. How are we doing on the power grid problem? What about unemployment? What about the oil? What can we expect to happen should we cut off funding the Sunnis?





& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & do believe that John McCain's worldview, formed in Vietnam, has been overtaken by events, technology and politics; and while I am convinced that this country desperately needs its own regime change, it is entirely possible that only a Republican president could pull off the shell game, if that is what it comes to -- you know, declare victory and go home.





Republicans do seem to be able to get away with taking steps that if taken by Democrats would result in calls for impeachment. Recall that Eisenhower promised that if elected he would "go to Korea." So he did, then, once home, signed the very same peace agreement that Truman had negotiated, a deal that had caused the Republican right wing to charge Harry with treason.





Roll the tape forward 20 years to 1972, when Republican president and life-long commie fighter, Richard Nixon, went to China where, in cordial meetings with old enemies, Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou, he normalized relations. A Democrat doing the same thing would have been crucified.





By continuing to call for "victory" no matter what the realities, McCain may well have positioned himself to do an Ike-Dick number, should he be elected. And, what's more, get away with it. Wouldn't that be ironic?
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