Tuesday, July 22, 2008


When A Victory Becomes A Defeat After A Defeat Becomes A Victory...

It's funny: Republicans may be good at winning/ending wars, but are really bad at reaping the political fruits from them.

Reagan won the Cold War, with the Berlin Wall's subsequent collapse the biggest symbol of that victory. Yet George H. W. Bush's was rather muted given the significance. He never had the political sensibility (or the savvy political advisors) to have any public events around the country to celebrate America's victory over a four-decade foe and seven-decade ideology. Such a recognition for long-term American sacrifice may have helped change the mood of the country in the '89-'90 time period. In such a context, Bush I's subsequent leadership and victory in Persian Gulf War could have earned him a second term (though, as Winston Churchill proved, victory in war guarantees nothing in peacetime).

Briefly...the current Iraq War has, strategically, been won, lost, and won again. Yet, ironically, the architects of that war are about to "lose" it again!

Barack Obama's overseas trip is now looking like a political tour de force, with Nouri Al-Maliki giving him either an accidental or intentional de facto endorsement with his statements outlining a timetable "time horizon" for the withdrawal of American troops.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration and the McCain campaign are left scrambling to explain why what the Iraqis are about withdrawal doesn't really mean what it seems to be saying.

McCain has put himself in an awkward box: On the one hand, he doesn't want to talk about withdrawal of US troops. Yet, on the other hand, he has increasingly ramped up his own triumphalist rhetoric. During the GOP debates, he snapped at opponents who said even innocuous phrases like, "The surge is apparently working." McCain would declare, "Not apparently: the surge is working." Last week, he declared, not that the US is winning in Iraq, but, "We have succeeded."

If that is the case, why stay? If success doesn't mean anything, it undermines his -- and George W. Bush's -- own statements that America must stay in Iraq "until the job is done."

This is exactly why a certain pundit argued nearly two weeks ago that the smartest course for John McCain be to "declare victory -- and get out."

Instead, Obama is happily basking in the Iraqis latching onto his "timetables" rhetoric -- rather than McCain's language of victory and triumph, which appear not to have room for any "real world" adjustments. And so, McCain, architect of the "surge", is about to fumble the rhetorical spoils of the plan to his political adversary.

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