Keywords: politics
Or, where I'm at right now on this presidential race thing and how I got here

Over in the comments on Guy's Sarah Palin post, I mentioned that I was about to start looking more seriously into McCain, and I thought this would be a good time to document the start of that process, for any who might be interested.

First, some context about where I'm coming from. I'm a lifelong lefty. In my 20+ years of voting, I have voted for exclusively Democrats in hundreds of positions at all levels of government.

In addition, my partner is a consultant in Democratic politics, and gave advice to Gore's team during the 2000 "hanging chads" election debacle.

I go into this history not because it has the slightest to do with the validity of my beliefs, but to indicate that whatever you might think about my current beliefs, I come to my positions with a long history of far left thinking and voting as my base. I delved into this a bit in this post, where I explored what I believed then and now on various issues of the day.

Anyone reading my posts over the last few years, first on the developer forums and now here, knows that my current views wouldn't always seem to match up with my staunchly liberal history, so I'm going to try and provide some context for that, and for why I would be giving McCain any consideration at all.

My straight-Democratic-ticket voting streak ended in 2004, when, for the first time I can recall, I voted for a Republican...not only a Republican, but the evilest of all Evil League of Evil Republicans ever, George Bush.

WTF? Had I lost my mind? My household worked hard to try and defeat him in 2000 when everything was at stake during those weeks in Florida, and now we were mired in a Vietnam-style war with no end in sight, and I voted for that guy?

Yup. I was a single-issue voter, and I trusted both candidates at their word. I trusted Kerry when, in his NY Times profile toward the end of the campaign, he said:

''We need to engage more directly and more respectfully with Islam, with the state of Islam, with religious leaders, mullahs, imams, clerics, in a way that proves this is not a clash with the British and the Americans and the old forces they remember from the colonial days,'' Kerry told me during a rare break from campaigning, in Seattle at the end of August. ''And that's all about your diplomacy.''

I suppose this is where I tread on being a mouth-breathing knuckle dragger, but when it comes to engaging with Islam, I'm more in the camp of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie and Mark Steyn in believing that Islam is something to be confronted and reformed, not respected and coddled in its current form. Kerry's talk here scares the crap out of me, especially when I reflect on how our neighbors to the North flirt with introducing Sharia law into a civilized country.

There is a cultural war at work here, and it's one we absolutely cannot lose. Other modern countries have gone down the tubes in recent years by letting the Islamic camel get its nose under the tent, and we can't let that happen to us.

The funny thing is, to my mind, this was and is a profoundly liberal, profoundly Democrat, point of view. I want to protect the status of women as independent beings who can make their own life choices; I want people to have self-determination and freedom of speech, association, and religion. So from my perspective I was intensely interested in pushing forward the agenda that I and my fellow lefties had always believed in, but as I looked around in 2004, I found that my fellow lefties had wandered off to some other field, and I was standing alone.

At this time I don't think I knew the terminology, but I was beginning to understand the difference between a "classic liberal" and a Democrat liberal, and my exploration of that difference led to some deep realizations for me, more of which perhaps later in this post or others.

I also believed Kerry when he said, as paraphrased in that profile:

Kerry has argued that Bush's war in Iraq is a disaster, that troops should be brought home before the end of the next presidential term and that the Iraq war is a ''profound diversion'' from the war on terror and the real showdown with Al Qaeda.

I agreed with him that the war to that point was a disaster, a fact I found depressing and extremely disappointing, but I could not accept pulling out once we had engaged. We broke it, we needed to take responsibility and fix it -- or, more realistically, create the circumstances which would allow the Iraqis to fix it. To invade their country and then leave them helpless to defend themselves against terrorists and surrounding nations was not an option, in my mind.

I could not help but think frequently about what I consider our nation's lowest point in modern history, as chronicled here by PBS (about the first Bush during the first Gulf War):

Bush urges Iraqis to rise up. They do, and within days Saddam has lost control of southern Iraq. But the rebellion is soon overwhelmed by Saddam's forces, which include helicopter gunships, and Bush orders U.S. troops not to intervene. It is estimated that thousands of Shiites were killed.

It's even worse than that. After Bush told the Iraqis (specifically the Kurds) to rise up, he not only stood by and watched them die, he actually let Saddam have the helicopters and the permission to use the airspace so they could be killed.

Never again, I say. We cannot once again offer hope to the Iraqis, or any people, then leave them hanging, quite literally.

I believed Bush when he said he wouldn't pull out of Iraq. In my opinion, both candidates were men of their word on these issues, and, for me at that time, this was the defining issue and therefore determined my vote.

I voted for Bush on his promise that he wouldn't pull out of Iraq.

As such, I may be one of the few people in human history to not only get what he voted for, but more:

- Rumsfeld was finally fired.

- Real military leadership was put in place, and we got serious about dealing with Iraq and the terrorists there.

- When times got tough and everyone including his own party wanted to run, Bush doubled down and committed more by doing the Surge. His most vocal supporter? John McCain.

The Surge may be the most successful military gambit since WWII. Here is what Barack Obama has to say about it:

"I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated," Obama told O'Reilly in an interview taped Thursday in York, PA. "It's succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Some translation is in order: When he says "nobody anticipated", he means that he was totally wrong and Bush and McCain were totally right on this, the most important military decision in recent US history since our initial decision to invade. He still defends his call for us to pull out of Iraq in defeat and his condemnation (until this statement, in the face of overwhelming success) of the Surge.

I'm getting a bit sidetracked in time here, but this isn't a minor thing. This is politics at its best and purest. McCain put his campaign on the line to support the Surge at a time when people were sure that guaranteed his loss of the nomination; Obama took the easy route and refused to change his opinion in the face of changing facts and to this day refuses to change his opinion in the face of what he describes as the wild success of the Surge.

Whatever you side you find yourself on in this, there is no better litmus test of the difference between these candidates on which to make your choice.

But back to 2004. Voting for Bush was a shock to my system. I couldn't possibly be voting for someone I disagreed with so fundamentally on so many issues (as is true to this day) if something hadn't changed in me.

This was the impact of 9/11 on my thinking. I was pulled out of the more petty day to day political considerations to look at the bigger picture, and I found that I was no longer a partisan voter. I could no longer vote on party lines regardless of what the party said and did.

Now, for me, I look at the critical issues facing us, and I look for which candidate and which party is most likely to make progress on those issues in the next four to eight years, regardless of how many other things I disagree with them on.

This brings me to my initial consideration of McCain. In 2000 I saw him as some weird intense guy who I didn't understand and didn't feel I could really trust.

Here are the factors I know of right now:

- He is no friend to the First Amendment. Very troubling to me. Unfortunately, the Democrats are no better friends to free speech given their desire to reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine. Free speech and trade are two pillars of a healthy society that no longer have a major party supporting them in this country.

- He was involved in the "Keating 5" scandal; my vague understanding is that he wasn't really very culpable, but was pulled in because they needed to include a Republican to seem fair. I need to look into this more.

- He believes in confronting and defeating evil, like Gandalf and I do. A point for him.

- His focus on service to the country is worrisome. I need to look into exactly what that translates into.

- He is not, by his own admission, very knowledgeable about economics, but his instincts are for free trade, low taxes, and a market economy. If this is not being knowledgeable, we need more not knowledgeable candidates! Big point in his favor, especially since neither party is willing to support trade any more and Obama can't talk about trade or jobs without saying things I find patently ignorant and dangerous.

Something about that: Obama's economic advisors are quite good in my opinion, but what Obama says doesn't match up with what his advisors believe. People tell me he's just lying about his economic beliefs for public consumption, and the advisors are a signal to those who understand economics of what approach he'll really take.

That may well be, but I have a policy: I accept candidates at their word during the campaign. I don't try to play acrobatic games where I guess which things they are lying about and which not.

On the question of economics, I found it particularly odd that in his major speech on race, Obama included this slam on foreign workers:

This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

What slam on foreign workers, you ask? Well, the ones who get the jobs that are shipped overseas. Is it really a problem that someone somewhere got a job? Is it really only acceptable if Americans get jobs? This call to xenophobia and protectionism is deeply disturbing to me.

- Related to economics, he is assertively pro-immigration and, as with the Surge, was willing to tank his candidacy if necessary to defy his party and keep true to this. (Yes, he finally signed on to some watered down thing on immigration, but he stayed true to his core). I'm strongly with McCain here.

- He is anti-abortion, but unwilling to do much about it. I'm pro-choice, but not too concerned given his hands-off approach on this.

- He's socially conservative, I'm socially quite liberal. But, as with abortion, his feelings don't appear to translate to actions, and as the GayPatriot site has discussed multiple times, the McCain people and the Republicans have been quite accepting of gays at the convention (unlike, as GayPatriotWest stresses, his gay friends who are almost universally intolerant of him being a Republican).

- He's very close to Joe Leiberman, who I respect quite a lot (though I have the same disagreements with Joe in many areas). If he indicates that Leiberman will be an important part of his administration -- say, Secretary of Defense or State, it'll be a big point in his favor.

- He apparently considered, at least in passing, Huckabee as his VP pick. It's in his favor that he doesn't seem to have taken this seriously; if he had picked Huckabee, that would have made me a guaranteed Obama voter, on the basis of Huckabee's confusion between us and fundamentalist Islamic countries:

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

Those are the items I start with. As it happens, most of the blogs I read are anti-McCain. Here are probably the most influential (to me) anti-McCain blogs I read:

- Megan McArdle

- Will Wilkinson

- Andrew Sullivan

Megan McArdle and Will Wilkinson are extremely intelligent, thoughtful libertarians who refuse to vote for McCain for various reasons, his attack on the first amendment probably being the biggest. Their concerns give me pause.

Andrew Sullivan is a formerly-thoughtful-and-independent-conservative and former New Republic editor who is now a full-throated Obama supporter and whose attacks on McCain and Palin actually serve to drive me toward McCain just in reaction to the viciousness (Sullivan was probably the highest-profile pusher of the conspiracy theory that Palin's last child was actually her daughter's child...disgusting stuff.)

I think the only sort-of-pro-McCain blog I'm consistently reading is:

- The Corner, a blog associated with National Review. Unlike Andrew Sullivan, these are a set of thoughtful, conflicted commentators who have been tepid for McCain and who, in response to the Palin pick, range from ecstatic to thinking McCain is nuts.

In other words, this is the perfect sort of blog to help sort through my opinions on the subject.

After all that, where I'm at right now:

Almost everything about Obama scares me.

Many things about McCain scare me.

everything - many things = probable McCain voter from what I know now

This could change as I learn more over the next couple of months, and as we hear more from the candidates.

My rule is that I don't throw away my vote on protest candidates, and I don't try to "choose the winner". I vote for whoever I feel will make the best progress on the most important issues of the day, whether I agree with them on other things or not and whether they are likely to win or not.

As indicated above, there are things McCain can do that would make me an instant Obama voter; at this point it's probably fair to say there's nothing Obama could do to make me an instant Obama voter.

Let me know what you think about all this -- and if you know of thoughtful blogs covering the candidates in an interesting or persuasive manner, please let me know.
Honestly, you have my respect. You were willing to analyze who you wanted to vote FOR, not against. While I don't agree with you voting for Bush(he's about retarded, not that Kerry was much better), at least you thought through WHY, and that's what important. I'm voting for Obama(more than likely, it's too soon to say who atm), and hoping that he can reform the economy. I think I'm in the minority supporting a raise in taxes these days. But, tax cuts=less money, which means more debt.

Also, take a look at what McCain has to really say about abortion. He may be pro-life, but he does exempt cases of maternal death/harm, and incest(maybe rape too, I'm not sure). You may be more inclined to vote for him after reading up on it.
On the immigration issue, I think a bigger beef conservatives have with McCain is his support for making illegal immigration a little easier. I'd be all for raising the quotas if we could just properly assimilate the newcomers quickly, and if we'd enforce our current laws. Ultimately a lot of people are pro-immigration if you include a willingness to play by the rules.
What I think is: McCain/Palin 2008!!!

Sorry, I mean that's what feel. What I think is: McCain/Palin 2008. Note the lack of exclamation points. That makes it thoughtful.

Regarding social conservatism: IMHO most traditional morality is rooted in long experience of what makes a society successful and sustainable, which is how it became traditional -- but I don't think even a firmly socially conservative future would be what the far left envisions it to be. (BTW, I don't claim to be a sterling examplar of traditional morality... at this point in my life I'm perhaps more like a "fellow traveler.")

Witness the brief delight of the far left at the news of Palin's pregnant daughter: now the Christers will demand that McCain kick her to the curb! ...What? They love her? Hypocrites! The far left's problem here was that it has a far more fundamentalist and literalist reading of the Bible than most Christians do, and far more experience ridiculing the Bible's contradictions than reconciling them.

I think (and hope) the social conservatism that survives in the 21st century will be tempered by people's own empirical experience with diverse neighbors (as opposed to accepting the media's insistence that diversity is unconditionally wonderful), and by our fumbling efforts to find a balance between justice and mercy, order and chaos, and all that other stuff that always has to be balanced. (As I've said in the past, this explains why a majority of Americans support civil unions in some form, but not when you apply the word "marriage" to them. It's like trying to sell kosher ham [Google informs me I'm only the 447th person to come up with that analogy -- top 500, woo].)

If McCain had chosen Huckabee, you'd see among many conservatives something very much like what we've seen among Clinton supporters angry that Obama didn't pick her for VP: i.e., they'd swear the ticket had lost their votes, complain about it up to the day of the election, and then most of them would still end up punching the chad for their party's candidate, because the other party is still worse.

True on Huckabee, though I think Palin actually has a chance of pulling in some of those disenchanted Hillary voters. I suspect a lot of people were enamored of the social progress she represents far more than her specific ideas, and the fact that she's more of a centrist (compared to Obama anyway) meant some people supported her who might not have supported a more liberal candidate.
I'd still ask what Obama's slam on foreign workers was. Honestly, it seems like a long way to go from a blatant slam on corporations. I wouldn't call it xenophobic. It's distrustful of entities in the US. I mean, you could try to spin it into a "paranoid hippie" accusation, but the "think of the children foreign workers" angle seems too thin.
Disturbed Puppy said:
Also, take a look at what McCain has to really say about abortion. He may be pro-life, but he does exempt cases of maternal death/harm, and incest(maybe rape too, I'm not sure). You may be more inclined to vote for him after reading up on it.

I haven't looked into it yet, but I actually find the mixed position on abortion to be the least morally defensible. Either you believe that abortion at a particular point in the pregnancy is murder or you do not; if you believe it is murder, then it is murder whether incest or rape were involved or not. Believing it is murder but excusing murder based on how the pregnancy occurred is repugnant to me.

Bootyboy said:
if you vote for the lesser of two evils, you're still voting for evil.

I wrote a whole response to this, but it's too much for a comment -- I'm gonna make it my next post.

Gughunter said:
Witness the brief delight of the far left at the news of Palin's pregnant daughter: now the Christers will demand that McCain kick her to the curb! ...What? They love her? Hypocrites!

Reading The Corner for the last couple of weeks, I sense a great annoyance at liberals (and I was right there with them in this not long ago) thinking that conservatism and various religious groups have remained stuck in time in 1950 while everyone else has zoomed ahead.

First off, buckos, plenty of good ol' democrats and even lefties were perfectly racist/sexist/homophobic back in the day, and they've mostly evolved to something new; why can't they see that conservatives and others have been living through the same times, had the same family members come out of the closet, deal with teenage pregnancy, etc, and evolved their views in response.

What we can't know is if the same evangelicals would have taken such a generous view if a Democratic candidate was in this situation; we can hope, but I suspect that a good percentage of people always apply different standards to the "other side" than they do to "our side". (You know, like all those liberals who now believe a woman's place is in the kitchen, dammit! Well, okay, she can leave once she hits menopause and the kids are out of the long as she only wears long skirts and no makeup...)

ACWraith said:
I'd still ask what Obama's slam on foreign workers was. Honestly, it seems like a long way to go from a blatant slam on corporations.

There's a lot of smoke screening that goes on on this issue. Unions claim their problem with outsourcing is a lack of safety standards and high wages in other countries, but that's bullpucky...if we were outsourcing to places with safety standards and high wages, do you really believe unions would be going, "Yeah, baby, go! Take that job to a better place!"

Um, no. A union's job is to keep people here employed, and they tend to believe that means if people elsewhere are employed by the same company, that's "stealing a job from an American".

Corporations are providing jobs. They provide jobs here, they provide jobs there. Deciding that some jobs can be done cheaper there is not a takeaway; in fact, it's a benefit to us, because they can then make their products available to us for a cheaper price (see the Evil Walmart for a direct case of this -- cheap employment in China equals cheaper products in US Walmart stores).

There is no way to slam "outsourcing" without slamming foreign workers; more, there is no way to do so without slamming poor foreign workers...the ones who need their jobs way more than any American (who, as even our "high" unemployment rates show, can almost always find another job).

I know this is unintuitive. I know it makes me evil.

I believe that poor workers in other countries are better served with a low-paying job than a relatively rich American is with the same low-paying job. If that makes me evil, so be it.
Deadron wrote:
I haven't looked into it yet, but I actually find the mixed position on abortion to be the least morally defensible. Either you believe that abortion at a particular point in the pregnancy is murder or you do not; if you believe it is murder, then it is murder whether incest or rape were involved or not. Believing it is murder but excusing murder based on how the pregnancy occurred is repugnant to me.

I've always thought of it as life beginning at 10 weeks. By that point, you should know who the "baby daddy" is, and know if it's your father's or the south side rapist's. Also, while you said it's murder(or at least alluded to), what about maternal death? Wouldn't the infant be just as guilty if the mother died as it is the other way around? After all, it is the infant's fault(whether the baby knows better or not...which they don't). I don't agree with condemning a mother to death, and having a child raised without a mother...especially a male.
Disturbed Puppy wrote:
Also, while you said it's murder(or at least alluded to), what about maternal death? Wouldn't the infant be just as guilty if the mother died as it is the other way around?

Risk to the mother is a separate question from whether the pregnancy was due to rape or incest.

You can believe the mother has every right to save her own life through abortion if necessary while still believing abortion is murder.

On the whole, this gets into some very tough questions...after all, we wouldn't be surprised at all by a mother who let herself get run over to save her child and we would probably expect her to do so; and it's not always black and white "life or death" for the mother if the child is born under difficult circumstances.

Perhaps most important is to not let ourselves get distracted from the main point of whether rape or incest should make murder justifiable (again, if you believe a particular abortion is murder).
Hmm, touche. I'm against it* after 10 weeks, but for it before the 10 week deadline in only special cases. It shouldn't be a contraceptive. And like I said, I'm not sure what his view is on it, he's blurring it a bit to snag conservatives I think. So..I really don't know where he's coming from, and I don't think anyone else does either at this point. Obama's far more cloudy though.

*Cases where maternal life is at stake are exceptions.
Deadron wrote:
I believe that poor workers in other countries are better served with a low-paying job than a relatively rich American is with the same low-paying job. If that makes me evil, so be it.

Good and evil are absolute. They have little do with it. =)

It's more a question of who one thinks the leader of a country should serve.
ACWraith wrote:
It's more a question of who one thinks the leader of a country should serve.

Do lower prices serve our country? Because when a politician moves to prevent jobs from "moving overseas" (or to Mexico or wherever), they are raising the prices for our goods, and increasing the prices for our goods eventually results in more jobs moving out of the country as well as effectively reducing people's income.

Sugar tariffs have had a major impact on us, for example. Our sugar is very expensive relative to the rest of the world, so candy companies have moved to other countries and where possible companies in the US have moved to using High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of sugar.

So, yes, if politicians want to serve the workers in our country, they shouldn't try to keep jobs from going to cheaper workers elsewhere and they shouldn't subsidize things through direct subsidies or tariffs, because it all comes back to bite the rest of us in the end (a few people get really rich while the rest of us are screwed, though!)
Bootyboy wrote:
So, the sugar tariffs were never meant to keep jobs or industry in the US; it was a vehicle for ADM to increase its base revenue.

I'm talking about the results, not the intent -- different people had different intents in this process (none of them, that I'm aware of, being to improve things for consumers).

Regardless of intent, result was to increase cost of sugar, drive some jobs and industries to other countries, and cause the use of HFCS in place of sugar. Oh, and make some people rich in the process of doing this to everyone else...

And while ADM may be one of those involved, this all started long before they were involved...
I apologize for the tangent, but you're leaving out the quote that I was replying to. You said that foreign workers would benefit more than ones in the US and pondered whether your support for the idea made you evil. I said it doesn't.

Granted, I'm still not clear on how the heck cheaper prices benefit people with no income so I may still disagree on this issue and I know I disagree on others. However, you're referencing a tribal mindset which seems to come from left-swinging fanatics on the opposite side of the country from me. It made you tell me to drink my diarrhea-inducing tap water so to heck with 'em. ;)
A very thoughtful post. Kudos to you! Very interesting what you focused on. I do wonder, though if McCain's support of the surge had more to do with insight, or political dynamics. Remember, it came on the heels of McCain's newfound support of Bush, and Republican platform in general, especially after 2004. The same, of course could be said of Obama's resistance to support increased troop levels.

In the end, I think it is more important to look at what they propose. McCain seems to want to continue Bush's strategy and continue involvement for the foreseeable future on many levels (what the Republicans used to condemn as "nation building"), though slowly turning things over as political pressure demands. Obama seems to favor a more rapid withdrawal accompanied by turnover to trained Iraqi security forces, with troops out by 2010. Which seems more inline with what you support? Ironically, the former would seem to appeal to a liberal.

In my view, the surge has been mislabeled as as "success". It did exactly what one would expect- decreased violence in areas where there were more soldiers. However, it is neither maintainable, nor did it help to achieve any long term goals. Overall violence is about the same, just further from Baghdad and Anbar (where the biggest buildup was). It, essentially, was just a small band aid on a hemorrhaging patient. If the Republicans want to get serious about addressing Iraq, they need to start talking about how we are going to rebuild the infrastructure and power grids or how we are going to address the rampant corruption. And how we are going to pay for all this and do it with a military already stretched thin.

There is a saying that you don't throw good money after bad. Sometimes you must cut your losses. It is better the cast of a hand than lose the whole body. I can't justify spending billions more or shedding one more soldier's blood for what we have failed to do in Iraq. Our soldiers have fought bravely and with courage- they deserve better than to be shoved in a desert facing death until they "win" against some nebulous ideological enemy as we fail to marshal all of our resources against the actual perpetrators of violence like OBL.

I think things like the recent territory turnover of Anbar represent a willingness to admit we can't stay there forever.

Perhaps Iran will invade. But if Viet Nam is any example, our enemies do not always stay so forever. Or maybe the Iraqis will decide they do not like Iranian invasion any better than they did in the 80s and repel the Iranians.
Vietnam has been a long-running but very bad comparison to Iraq among the press. The only bearing it has on present-day reality is the lesson it should have taught us that giving up is more disastrous than trying to win. In Iraq basically we've achieved victory; al Qaeda is in shambles, Sadr's militia is on the ropes, and the Iraqi government itself now says they feel comfortable taking over most of this stuff. So we'll be withdrawing (mostly) from Iraq one way or another--it just depends on whose terms.

I feel more comfortable withdrawing at the request of a duly elected government which has matters well in hand, than in reaction to a (wrongly) perceived loss. Even before the Surge, things weren't going badly so much as not well; but if they had been bad, doubling down and committing an even greater effort to win would still have been the right move, particularly with what we know about this enemy and how they interpret weakness. Vietnam engaged with us quite some time after we withdrew mostly because economic realities forced them to, whereas the same would never be true in the Middle East. And particularly in Iraq, the US earned a reputation for not sticking with commitments after abandoning the Shia resistance against Hussein; it would be gravest folly to reinforce that reputation rather than repudiate it.
Oh, I dunno, both operations began on false (maybe simple error) pretenses (Tonkin/WMD) with an eye towards an ideological enemy and resulted in thousands of US and natives dead, billions wasted, and a severe shake in confidence with US leadership. I know veterans of both conflicts who seem comfortable comparing the two, despite the very noticeable differences (draft, domestic racial tensions, etc.). So maybe they are not wholly dissimilar. Probably moreso than the WW2 analogies that some drag up.

You do a good job of illustrating the false dichotomy that the politicos are offering up though. No one is saying we leave tomorrow. But the Republicans like to act that way. Even Obama phrases withdrawal with a 2 year horizon and acknowledges that it may require adjustment. McCain will leave, too, I am fairly certain. He just has to give a lot more rhetoric to withdrawing with honor and making sure we "won" because that's what the Republicans demand.

Whose terms? When does the US not do it on our own terms? For better or worse, we call our own shots. Bush 42 betrayed the Shias, Clinton half assed Somalia, not much we can do about that. We also bailed on the Afghanis. So, I dunno that this invasion is going to change any of that....
Yeah, Afghanistan is a mess--we need to do more to clean up over there. But I think a safe way of saying withdrawal would be on our terms would be saying that the democratic Iraqi government we helped erect asks us to reduce our role. That was, after all, the ultimate goal of those who supported the overthrow of Saddam's regime. Go in, clean up, get a secular democracy in place, and then let them call the shots in their own country--now led by their people. That's exactly what's happening now, only Obama was in favor of withdrawal not only before the Surge, during the Surge, and after the Surge, but even before the Iraqi government was ready to take the lead. Now they've signaled they're ready, but it doesn't change the fact that Obama was wrong on this issue for the better part of two years.
Jmurph wrote:
In my view, the surge has been mislabeled as as "success". It did exactly what one would expect- decreased violence in areas where there were more soldiers.

Actually, at least one guy was saying it would make "no appreciable difference in the situation on the ground".

However, it is neither maintainable, nor did it help to achieve any long term goals. Overall violence is about the same, just further from Baghdad and Anbar (where the biggest buildup was).

My understanding is that violence is way down in Iraq overall and things are in much better shape now. I don't have time to look up the stats properly right now, so I'll come back to this...
Sorry, I should have been more specific, the casualties seem to be down from 2006 highs, but certainly not the lowest of the war. And there is evidence that the troop surge may not have been the sole reason. Small team targeting of insurgent leaders and even the fact that some factions seem to have become fed up with the violence may have also contributed. And the situation with refugees, orphans, lack of electricity, etc. doesn't seem to have improved. Of the goals Pres. Bush outlined to be met by now, almost none have been met (as tha GAO pointed out).

That's the the big problem I have- the lack of coherent planning. I am not convinced that withdrawal from the remaining 7 of 18 (coalition forces have already turned over 11) provinces within 24 months would be a bad idea. Regardless, I want to hear plans, not general appeals to honor or "country first". Obama has proposed some specifics. McCain seems much less willing. Since I tend to favor disengagement (if nothing else, 4000 dead servicemen and women and almost ten times that with serious injuries thanks to poor planning and no recognizable benefit while Osama still lives enrages me viscerally) and McCain has supported Bush and not elucidated a strategy beyond vague appeals to nationalism, this issue strongly pushes me toward Obama.

Were McCain to actually be able to get the factions right and lay out some coherent planning, I would listen.
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