Is It Really All That Important?

Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, stirred up a hornet’s nest of trouble for himself as a result of an offhand remark on the Today show today, saying, regarding when troops will come home from Iraq, “…but that’s not too important.”

Taken on its own, and put in context, I suppose the senator thought the remark was innocuous enough.  He was, after all, trying to make the same point that he has been trying to make in the extended wake of his much attacked “100 years” comment; that essentially his vision for Iraq is one not dissimilar from our prolonged presence in Germany or South Korea.

To this end, I suppose one could argue that he simply worded a valid argument poorly.  But in reality, the intent behind what one might tentatively call a gaffe only deepens the significance of the statement.

On a more visceral, immediate level, the quote, as I’m sure many have already pointed out, is not likely to earn him much love, specifically among those who think that when we pull out of Iraq IS important.  Intended or not, the statement is incredibly callous and seems blind to the worries of parents and husbands and wives and children whose loved ones are serving in Iraq.

Let’s not forget that McCain has the tricky task of running as a pro Iraq War candidate in a country that is decidely opposed to our occupation over there.  As a result, the way in which McCain builds his arguments must be one of deliberation and care, which statements such as this seem completely devoid of; this comment shows a complete obliviousness towards the concerns of many Americans.

So, on the most immediate level, it is a gaffe because McCain says that it’s not too important, but for many Americans, it really is.

But, as Josh Marshall points out, this is a deeper look into the way in which McCain looks at the Iraq war, a truth which bears at a minimum two problems outside of the scope of American opinion.

The first has to do with the possibility that Iraq can ever be like Germany; the comparison of which is as ludicrous as comparing apples to three-horned elephants (at least oranges are fruit).  First one must take into account cultural differences; social standards and norms as well as religions and approaches to those religions, create a kind of cultural barrier that would, at least for the time being, resist the kind of mutual assimilation that such a long term occupation would necessitate.

Further, the existing level of rancor within boundaries and without are far different, far more deeply embedded, and far less likely to dissipate in the near to mid future to make Germany seem analogous.  But even if you were to put Germany in the context of the Cold War to try and make the two different occupations analogous, you would still find yourself falling short.  By contrast to the Communist threat, those negative factors that we stand in opposition to in Iraq are far more fluid.  Where the Cold War could be analagous to blocking one wooden block with another, this situation is more like trying to use the same wooden block to stop water.

To a degree, yes, both are ideological struggles in a sense, but the methods and nature of the former are so vastly different from those of the latter that it seems outright silly that we would even attempt to use methods that are even similar to combat the both of them.

But let’s give the benefit of the doubt and say that while near term and mid term peace and amicability are not attainable, what about far term?  Again, I don’t think that’s possible under these conditions; part of the animosity felt by many in the region towards the US has stemmed from what is seen as unjustified meddling by us in the affairs of countries over there.  That is a key thing that seems to be missed by just about everyone who thinks that we should keep on keepin’ on.

We aren’t well liked in the Middle East because we keep poking our noses into their business.

Which brings me to the other reason why McCain’s vision of Iraq is a no go.  As we learned in recent days, an agreement pushed by the US to establish an infrastructure that would support a prolonged US presence in Iraq has met with considerable resistance by the Iraqis.  The fact of the matter is, no matter how many roses and rainbows McCain wants to use to paint his vision of Iraq, as long as we stay there it is a direct infringement upon the sovereignty of the Iraqis.

If they don’t want us there, there is no right for us to remain there.

Which provides us with the perfect frame from which to view McCain’s policy; Americans don’t want us there, Iraqis don’t want us there, and he doesn’t think the opinions of either is really all that important.

Is it a gaffe?  Not really because this comment is exactly what McCain believes; it wasn’t an all out misspeak.  Still, the uproar is most definitely deserved.

More at MemeorandumThe Swamp, Liberal Values, The Washington Independent, American Street, rubber hose, Taylor Marsh, Confederate Yankee, Political Machine and The Gavel


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  1. “But That’s Not What He Meant!” « Liberty Street - [...] not like there are any substantive differences between South Korea or Germany or Japan, and [...]

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