What Will McCain Do Now?

With the Iraqi government clarifying its call for U.S. troop withdrawals by 2010, there can no longer be any doubt that a strong Iraqi political consensus exists in favor of the U.S. leaving sooner, rather than later.

Needless to say, all of this puts John McCain in a very tough position. Having staked out a firm — some might even say obsessive — position against any sort of timetable, McCain now finds himself clearly at odds with the stated position of a government he supported spending over $600 billion and over 4000 American lives to install.

So the question is: What will McCain do now? His plan for ending the Iraq war consists of little more than vague promises of victory ponies, and he has offered no substantive plan for withdrawal, nor offered any broader vision for U.S. national security policy in the Middle East beyond the relentless application of military force against an undifferentiated Islamofascist threat. He has bet his entire candidacy upon the argument that he is better able to conduct a war that a majority of Americans and Iraqis have now made clear that they want ended. Not pursued until John McCain’s personal sense of honor has been satisfied, but ended.

Unfortunately, when confronted with reality this morning on NBC’s Today, McCain took the same approach as he did in a July 8 interview, which was to deny that the Iraqis had said what the Iraqis had in fact said:


Q: Senator Obama’s timetable of removing U.S. troops from Iraq within that 16-month period seemed to be getting a thumbs up by the Iraqi prime minister when he called it ‘the right timeframe for a withdrawal.’ He has backed off that somewhat, but the Iraqis have not stopped using the word timetable, so if the Iraqi government were to say — if you were President — we want a timetable for troops being to removed, would you agree with that?

MCCAIN: I have been there too many times. I’ve met too many times with him, and I know what they want. They want it based on conditions and of course they would like to have us out, that’s what happens when you win wars, you leave. We may have a residual presence there as even Senator Obama has admitted. But the fact is that it should be — the agreement between Prime Minister Maliki, the Iraqi government and the United states is it will be based on conditions. This is a great success, but it’s fragile, and could be reversed very easily. I think we should trust the word of General Petraeus who has orchestrated this dramatic turnaround.

I don’t think I’ve seen dancing this bad since my one and only Dead concert. Having promised in the past to respect Iraqi sovereignty, McCain now obsessively insists that the American withdrawal “will be based on conditions,” but seems unable or unwilling to understand that the overwhelming opposition of Iraqis to the U.S. presence in their country is an important “condition” in this regard. Recognizing this reality is an important first step for McCain. Then he can tell the American people what he plans to do about it. Assuming, of course, that he has any idea.