On Tourniquets

On today’s Morning Joe, John McCain condemned the deficiencies of the bailout bill which he voted for last night, and stressed that the bill was a necessary emergency measure, not a cure:

This is a tourniquet, this isn’t a cure, okay? This is a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Now we have to go about fixing the fundamental problems in our economy, and that’s going to be long and hard and tough. It doesn’t solve the problem.

Watch it:

In an article last December, counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen used the same metaphor to explain the U.S. military’s tactic of dividing Baghdad’s violently cleansed sectarian neighborhoods with a series of concrete barriers:

Kilcullen stresses that the walls are temporary. He compares them to tourniquets. “It’s something you do when patient is bleeding to death. But you don’t leave it there forever or it causes damage.”

I commented at the time that “a tourniquet is also an excellent metaphor for the surge itself: It’s helped, in some respects, to stop the bleeding, but it’s made it impossible to save the leg.” The surge was an emergency measure to staunch the flow of blood in which Iraq was drowning, but not a cure for the fundamental political problems driving the violence. As was discussed in a recent Center for American Progress report, it now seems that “the surge has frozen into place the accelerated fragmentation that Iraq underwent in 2006 and 2007 and has created disincentives to bridge central divisions between Iraqi factions.”

In this respect, the surge and the bailout are similar. As Ed Paisley, Brian Katulis and I wrote last week, both solutions “do not address the core problem, and do not speak to the failed conservative ideology that generated the crises”:

Just as the emergency escalation of 30,000 troops to Baghdad represented a form of triage for President Bush’s disastrously counterproductive Iraq “crusade”…so too the Wall Street bailout represents an attempted rescue of unfettered financial markets sorely lacking in prudent regulatory supervision.[…]

Bailing out Wall Street does not resolve the deep problems in the U.S. housing market created by the out-of-control securitization of individual home mortgages. It only shifts these debts onto the American taxpayer. Similarly, the surge has failed to address the disastrous consequences of the invasion of Iraq, leaving problems such as Iraq’s massive refugee crisis, the outflow of terrorist tactics and technology from Iraq to the surrounding region, and festering anti-Americanism for the next administration to deal with.

The $200 billion surge and the $700 billion bailout represent the failure of two of the main planks of the modern conservative agenda: Economic deregulation and the “war on terror.” While McCain admits the shortcomings of the bailout fix, he he is completely unwilling to do so in regard to the Iraq surge, which he has made the centerpiece of his campaign. McCain has also tried to downplay how deeply complicit he was — both as a self-described “deregulator” and as one of the most strident advocates of the Iraq war — in creating the disasters that have required such drastic measures to contain.