The Strategic Thought of John McCain

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"The Strategic Thought of John McCain"

Ana Marie Cox tries to get John McCain to expand a bit on his vision for an indefinite occupation of Iraq:

His campaign insists that the reason he becomes so hyperbolic is to hammer home the point that our time in Iraq will stop being a controversy once the killing stops. Sure, he’s right about that — and that’s why he mentions Japan, Germany and Kuwait when rebuffing criticism. (Though it’s also a weirdly obvious conclusion: Other than the killings, America, how did you like the play?) What frustrated me yesterday was his refusal to engage on what it would take to make the transition from an occupying force in a country torn by civil war to something less intrusive… and also to address the mixed feelings that Iraqis greet the prospect of perpetual American presence.

I think this shows a real inability to grasp the basic dynamics of the situation. I can’t speak to the details of the immediate postwar period in Germany and Japan, but it’s clear that following the formal surrender of the Axis militaries the occupation forces were able to very quickly establish orderly and peaceful conditions. Within just a couple of years the dawn of the Cold War shifted the main purpose of US military personnel in Germany and Japan away from occupation work and toward defense of those countries from the Soviet threat. Meanwhile, there was never any serious doubt about the legitimacy of “Germany” or “Japan” as nation-states.

Four and a half years after the occupation of Iraq began, there’s just nothing about Iraq 2008 that resembles Germany or Japan in 1950. To do what McCain does and simply assume that the natural evolution of the situation is into the sort of stability and uncontroversial presence of US troops that we see in those other countries is fatuous.

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