Anatomy of “100 Years”

In a fit of pure irony, the Republican party has been up in arms over something they have turned into fine art. I suppose, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

The uproar, of course, stems from a recent DNC ad that I myself wasn’t particularly thrilled with. Of course, my problems with the ad, and the RNC’s problems with the ad, are completely different.

For me, I feel the ad fails in that it doesn’t go far enough. That, if we are to be successful in winning the debate on foreign policy, we have to break free of Iraq tunnel vision, and start explaining the flaws with neoconservative in a more global, universal fashion.

For the RNC, their problem is that we’re taking John out of context. That, by taking tiny little snippets of what McCain has said, we are running misleading ads.

My first thought on this is, so? “Global test,” anyone? How about “Nuisance”? Do those two out of context snippets ring any bells? John Kerry, a man who, when he speaks, provides a massive amounts of context, had nearly all of that context erased when Republicans ran ads against him that focused not on the ideas surrounding these buzz words, but the buzz words themselves.

And what were the lacking contexts?

“Global Test”:

The president always has the right, and always has had the right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War. And it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms control.

No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.

But if and when you do it, Jim, you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you’re doing what you’re doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.

Here we have our own secretary of state who has had to apologize to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations.

I mean, we can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion, to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he said, “Here, let me show you the photos.” And DeGaulle waved them off and said, “No, no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.”

How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what we’ve done, in that way? So what is at test here is the credibility of the United States of America and how we lead the world. And Iran and Iraq are now more dangerous — Iran and North Korea are now more dangerous.

Now, whether preemption is ultimately what has to happen, I don’t know yet. But I’ll tell you this: As president, I’ll never take my eye off that ball. I’ve been fighting for proliferation the entire time — anti-proliferation the entire time I’ve been in the Congress. And we’ve watched this president actually turn away from some of the treaties that were on the table.

You don’t help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length with the United Nations.

You have to earn that respect. And I think we have a lot of earning back to do.

That quote, delivered during a 2004 debate with President Bush, is context. For those who are afraid of allowing the world govern our every single action, “global test” may be a terrible thing to consider. But with context, Kerry makes it unequivocally clear exactly what he meant.

His reference to global test was not ceding control of America’s military to other foreign powers, but instead was a call for responsibility in government. He clearly stated he was for a preemptive doctrine if there was a viable threat that faced the nation, but what he was cautioning against was irresponsibly doing so. And he explained why, he explained the damage that is done to the credibility of America amongst its allies when we engage in a policy of wars of adventure as opposed to wars of self-preservation.

Now, you may agree with this statement in full, or you may not, that’s not the point. The point is that in context Kerry’s words took on a far different meaning than they held when taken out of context.


When I asked Kerry what it would take for Americans to feel safe again, he displayed a much less apocalyptic worldview. ”We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance,” Kerry said. ”As a former law-enforcement person, I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling. But we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise. It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.”

Again, Republicans latched onto Kerry’s remarks in a New York Times interview, focusing primarily on the fact that Kerry called terrorism a “nuisance”. Their goal at the time was to paint Kerry as someone who did not understand the threat of terrorism, and that anyone in a post 9/11 world who thought of terrorism as nothing but a mere nuisance was not only inadequately prepared for the threats that continue to face us, but also insulting the loss of 3,000 Americans who did not die in a nuisance.

But, again, in context, we see that this was not what Kerry meant. He didn’t actually say that terrorism was a nuisance, but that that was what our goal should be. He wasn’t minimizing the threat of global terrorism, but instead displaying a clearly different and opposing approach to how to combat terrorism.

The Bush fueled doctrine was, and is, blatantly obvious; anti-terrorism through the suspension of civil liberties and through the waging of conventional warfare. But, as we have seen, the Bush administration’s attempts at stifling terrorism has only elevated it, increasing the global threat of terror, and blowing up the profile of terrorist organizations.

A solid argument can be made, and has been made by myriad journalists, experts, and opinion makers, myself included, that there is a direct corollary between the way that we have addressed the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and its increased prominence on the global stage.

I have, in the past, likened it towards giving terrorist organizations a soapbox, a microphone, a box full of recruitment posters, and a dastardly villain all of which aid their efforts.

What Kerry was suggesting was a different path, one that essentially took from terrorists those things that they need the most in order to fuel their endeavors; recognition and exposure.

But this was the plan of the RNC and those 527’s friendly to the RNC’s cause. Don’t actually debate the merits of the idea, but use singled out buzzwords that they could then manipulate in such a way to max out their efforts to employ TMT (Terror Management Theory) in a political setting.

And now, four years later, they are accusing us of doing the same thing. But are we?

Moira Whelan painstakingly dissects the anatomy of the “100 Years” comment used in the DNC ad over at Democracy Arsenal and comes up with some interesting conclusions.

Chief among them is that even when put in context, they don’t change that much. There is some backtracking that occurs later on as McCain came under fire for his comments; but even this backtracking doesn’t erase the primary concept. In an attempt to soften the blow, McCain attempts to liken the 100 years in Iraq to what we have seen in places such as Germany, Japan, and South Korea; a simple occupation among friends where no one dies.

As the first commenter to the post points out, though, only one of these three can even come close to being analogous as both Germany and Japan warranted prolonged occupations as a result of being the source of aggression against the United States. South Korea, on the other hand, saw a prolonged occupation as a result of a external aggression from North Korea.

But even this analogy falls woefully short as the occupation of South Korea was born from US desires to protect it from its northern communist neighbor during the cold war. The chaos in Iraq, the multiple antagonistic factions, and the questionable state of its future, and which government shall be in power, or which government should be in power, all come together to create a situation that is anything but analogous to the occupation that we have in South Korea.

And ultimately, Iraq poses a much more dangerous and volatile situation for years to come.

But while the added context of McCain’s words don’t much change the crux of the pared down soundbites, it is also significant to point out that the words we see in the DNC ad were not those of an isolated incident, and Whelan further points out that on multiple occasions McCain has implied his support for a prolonged US presence in Iraq that reaches beyond all of our life spans.

Which, of course, all shies away from the debate on whether or not it is right. Is it really our place to stay there for as long as McCain suggests, which is really the question that I think goes to the heart of the matter. Is McCain for American Imperialism, or does he believe in Iraqi self determination?

His answers clearly imply the former.

But when all is said and done, and we look at the outrage of the right in regards to this ad being pushed into the political sphere, a phrase comes to mind. Something about reaping what you sow, or some junk like that.

Maybe they should look into it.

More at Memeorandum: Matthew Yglesias, The New Republic, American Power and Jack and Jill Politics

(edited by DrGail)

One Response to “Anatomy of “100 Years””

  1. DrGail says:

    The fact that this is even an issue or a subject for breathless media coverage is Reason #473 why the MSM cannot be trusted to treat Democrats fairly, as you ably point out. Reason #792 is the discrepancy in how Wright’s association with Obama is investigated versus Hagee and McCain. Reasons #246 – #271 can be found at dKos in Hunter’s post.

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