Monday, January 15, 2007

What To Do About the Troop Escalation

The obvious answer for the public -- at least the two-thirds who oppose the plan -- is to protest.

Toward that end, a host of organizations are planning a "March on Washington" for January 27:

Here are the details of the demonstration. If you're interested in participating, go here if you live in Madison, here if you live in the northwoods, and email or call 414-964-5158 if you live in Milwaukee.

Assuming the Dem Congress won't be able to find a constitutionally appropriate way to stop the White House from actually sending the 21,500 troops, what it does about the escalation is in a bit more of a grey area.

By far the most interesting purely political story surrounding the escalation focuses on John McCain. Everyone knows by now that McCain has been a major proponent of a troop escalation for some time. But now that the White House is actually moving forward with the plan, it seems McCain is going to be forced to have his cake and choke on it, too.

Perhaps the best rundown of McCain's quandary comes from Peter Beinart in the latest issue of The New Republic. Although the official title of the article is "Binge and Surge," the more apt headline given on the TNR website is "George W. Bush Screws John McCain One Last Time."

As Beinart astutely notes, "
One of Vietnam's great ironies is that, rather than empowering the American left, it ended up empowering the American right." Anyone who wants to know how needs only to look as far as the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan leading up to his presidential victory in 1980, which stands as the moment modern conservativism reached its zenith in American mainstream politics.

The conservative line, of course, is that the US lost the Vietnam War because it didn't have the willpower to fight long and hard enough to win. Once Bush goes through with the plan to send more troops, though, the same can't be said for Iraq.

And since the troop escalation plan is McCain's political baby, it's failure will surely take a noticeable toll on his presidential aspirations in 2008. With McCain's popularity among independents -- his base in 2000 -- already sinking fast, according to a Washington Post poll from December, this could just be the brick that breaks the camel's back.

Of course, McCain could always try to claim 21,500 troops isn't enough; and, hence, his escalation plan would've worked if simply more troops were sent.

And, lo and behold, that's exactly what Greg Sargent finds McCain laying the groundwork to do less than a week after his escalation plan was officially adopted by the White House. Over the weekend, the NY Times and the Washington Post both ran stories that included comments from the McCain camp that the Arizona senator would've preferred if more troops were sent.

Unfortunately for McCain, that's not what he said just a few months ago. According to an article in the NY Sun from late October, McCain had this to say in a visit to New Hampshire: "
Roughly, you need another 20,000 troops in Iraq."

And Sargent, along with Media Matters, found a number of other occasions in recent months where McCain made comments that as few as 17,000 more US troops in Iraq could bring victory.

Moral of the story, be careful what you wish for...especially if you also wish to run for president.


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