McCain’s “100 Years”

March 1, 2008

I spent the better part of the day perusing the political web, and there was an issue I stumbled upon a couple of times, so I thought I’d post some thoughts on it and dedicate a thread….

It’s pretty clear that many of the bloggers on the right are taking exception to the way that McCain’s “100 years” comment regarding Iraq was being exploited by bloggers, pundits and candidates alike, charging that his statement was being spun and misrepresented.   Nowhere did I see this theme come up more often than at my new hangout at Hot Air, encapsulated by this post from Capt. Ed:

The AP fact-checked
one of the memes that Democrats have used against John McCain, and come to the conclusion that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama understand the term “war”. Both have tried to “make hay” out of McCain’s suggestion that we could stay in Iraq for 100 years as a proposal for an unending war, especially Obama. However, they leave out a little something from their analysis — casualties

Ed goes on to paste a section of the linked story, which attempts to make the distinction between “presence” and “war”, and that McCain’s reference was actually to the former:

No, John McCain is not proposing a 100-year war in Iraq.

The future Republican presidential nominee and the Democrats vying to run against him in the fall are engaged in a debate of sorts over how long U.S. troops should stay in Iraq and under what circumstances.

That’s a genuine point of contention. But Hillary Rodham Clinton and especially Barack Obama have distilled McCain’s position into sound bite oversimplifications, suggesting he foresees a war without end in anyone’s lifetime.


Obama: “We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years.”

Clinton: “I’ve also been a leader in trying to prevent President Bush from getting us committed to staying in Iraq regardless, for as long as Senator McCain and others have said it might be — 50 to 100 years.”


The Democrats leave out a vital caveat.

When McCain was asked about Bush’s theory that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for 50 years, the senator said: “Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”

A troop presence that does not involve Americans being harmed is, by definition, not a war.

I jumped in to the discussion, making the argument that, given the dynamics of the region, “presence” and “war” are essentially one in the same:

Well, it’s fine with him, but is it fine with the Iraqis?

McCain really said a mouthful here. Perhaps the reason why groups like al Qaeda and the rest of the insurgency has had success “motivating” people is because people like McCain have stated that they have no problem with our presence in the region for 100 years? Is the perception that we are there to set up permanent bases and take over one of the reasons why we’ve encountered so much resistance? You see, this works both ways.

If McCain wants to go on the assumption that Iraq would eventually be like S. Korea or Germany in the sense that we’d have a nice friendly base there indefinitely, perhaps he is the one who is naive with regard to foreign policy. It’s a different part of the world. Sooner rather than later, they’ll want us to leave.  In all likelihood, it will continue to be a “war” as long as we’re there. Hence, the grief McCain gets over the 100 years comment.

The bottom line?  Sure, the argument can be made that the Democrats are oversimplifying McCain’s statement in the form of a quick sound bite to score political points.   In the spirit of intellectual honesty and honorable debate, at some point they should probably focus on what is at the core of this disagreement and present it in a way similar to the argument I’m making. 

Update (4/1/08):  McCain’s statement and the spin surrounding it is still getting plenty of attention.  More from me over at Hot Air:

…backing him into the very stupid assertion that Maverick wants a Germany/Japan-type occupation of Iraq that’s somehow going to cost us $150 billion a year for decades and decades and decades.

Maybe I’ve missed it, but has Maverick estimated just how much it would cost? I mean, here we are 5 years in, and the cost has stayed pretty static (if not gone up with a troop increase), with little or no reduction on the horizon. So, maybe it’s up to McCain to put forth some prediction or vision on what this 100 years will look like, and how soon we could realistically see those cost levels go down. I know that logically they would eventually (assuming that we improved the situation), but for now, all we have to go on is $150 billion a year.

Exit question: He wants to know how Bush and McCain define victory. How does he define it?

I’m not sure he has to, because unlike many, he doesn’t insist on addressing the situation in those terms. Heck, I don’t think even Gen. Petraeus thinks in those terms. For my part, I’ve long argued that we’ve both “won” and “lost” a long time ago, depending on one’s perspective. Right now it looks like we’re mitigating an internal and somewhat regional conflict, nation building, and putting down an insurgency (as opposed to “fighting a war”, in the sense that we’re not sinking battleships and expecting some formal surrender of a defined enemy). For everyone else, I think that the goal posts have been moved so many times that I’m sure if you asked 10 people to define “victory”, you’d get 10 different answers. I think the whole paradigm is counterproductive, actually.

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  1. Is this why Israel loves John McCrazy? Could be. They want endless wars to protect them in the Middle East and ole Johnny is just the guy to do it for him. No wonder Joe Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins are supporting McCrazy! None of them have a kid over there, so it’s no problem to have a 100 year war in Iraq or endless wars for that matter.

    Israel isn’t impressed with Obama because he thinks the Israelis and the Palestinians should be reaching out to each other. There was an article written recently stating that 65% of Israelis want their government to reach out to the Palestinians. Oh, but when your government loves killing for power, they don’t listen to the people! Sound familiar? We’ve had a leader like that for the past eight years. Sick of him and his party because of it.

  2. Speaking as a person who has actually spoken to Iraqi’s (it’s been a few years though) they overwhelmingly welcome our presence.

    I think it is an outstanding idea to maintain a presence in this region. If you can’t figure out why, well, you won’t listen anyway.

    I do feel we should be reaping larger financial benefits from Iraq to pay for it though, via oil.

  3. TRM-

    As a man wearing the US uniform, I assume that the Iraqis you were tallking to weren’t intent on shooting you? Did you talk to any that were?

    Anyway, I’m just going by the various polls that are out there. I have no doubt that many of the Iraqis welcomed our efforts to topple Saddam and help them out, but it looks pretty clear that they don’t want us there for 100 years.

  4. Hear hear Chen but let’s also not leave and let it go where it would likely go. There is mounting evidence that I look at straight down the middle no Left or Right. There is many good things happening on the cooperation front. I for one don’t care if it’s a vast Iraqi conspiracy to work with us so we can leave. I just care that something seems to working.People denounce the surge or on the other side proclaim it before the Generals (and privates) tell the real story. Bottom line let’s stay together on this. Us and us and us and them.Hope that makes sense.

  5. The majority of Iraqi citizens want us out. Our continued presence there is slowing down any kind of political progress from the Iraqi government. We cannot sustain, either militarily or financially, our occupation of Iraq.

  6. I like your way of framing the issue. And I DON’T like the cheap misrepresentation of McCain’s argument even though, no ESPECIALLY because I’m a Democrat.

  7. As a man wearing the US uniform, I assume that the Iraqis you were tallking to weren’t intent on shooting you? Did you talk to any that were?

    Anyway, I’m just going by the various polls that are out there.

    Chen, since you questioned which Iraqis TRM spoke to, I hope you are also questioning which Iraqis are being polled.

  8. RP-

    Not really.

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