Posted by lex, on July 22, 2008
Jonah Goldberg has a great point in today’s LA Times:
McCain heroically pushed for the surge when the war was at its most unpopular point. Even more impressive, he favored a change in strategy back when the war was popular.
Within months of the invasion, McCain was calling for more troops and the head of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Later, when the Iraqi civil war erupted, Al Qaeda in Iraq metastasized and the Iranians mounted a clandestine surge all their own, McCain doubled-down; he argued that we couldn’t afford to lose and proposed a revised counterinsurgency strategy for victory. That was the same very month that Obama introduced the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007.”
That’s all great stuff for McCain’s biographers. But the tragic Catch-22 for the Arizona senator is that the more the surge succeeds, the more politically advantageous it is for Obama.
Being right about the past gets the Arizona senator nothing because it’s retrospective. Past performance is not only no guarantee of future returns in politics, it’s backwards-looking when people are voting for their future. Obama on the other hand is immunized from the effects of his previous wrongheadedness by the diminishing importance of Iraq on the national scene. Iraq is yesterday’s news.
Reagan’s victory in the Cold War made the presidency of foreign policy novice Bill Clinton possible. History repeats itself.