McCain on Afghanistan: leaving is an option

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McCain on Afghanistan: leaving is an option
McCain on Afghanistan: leaving is an option
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There are two consistent elements of Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) unfailingly-misguided approach to using military force: he wants (1) more U.S. invasions; and (2) indefinite deployments.

It came as quite a surprise, then, to see the Republican’s remarks yesterday.

The mishandling of the war in Afghanistan by the Obama administration has made it so dangerous that the U.S. should consider withdrawing all troops from the country early, according to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other lawmakers.

“I think all options ought to be considered, including whether we have to just withdraw early, rather than have a continued bloodletting that won’t succeed,” McCain said Wednesday.

McCain, who led the charge on Capitol Hill against the White House’s deadline for removing all troops from Afghanistan by 2014, argues that the rise of the rate of attacks is directly tied to the administration’s decision to pull troops too quickly from the country.

It’s important to note that McCain has not completely reversed course on his previous position – he has not, in other words, radically abandoned his hawkish worldview, endorsing an immediate withdrawal.

But in the senator’s mind, given the withdrawal timetable and the escalating green-on-blue attacks, an expedited schedule “ought to be considered.” Hearing McCain say this out loud and on the record was very hard to even imagine up until now.

Of course, McCain is just wrong on the underlying substance. In his mind, there’s violence in Afghanistan because President Obama intends to end the longest war in American history in 2014. I have no idea what leads McCain to this conclusion – does he seriously believe there’d be less violence if Obama announced today the war will continue indefinitely? – but it’s a reminder that the senator’s Sunday-show credibility on foreign policy has been greatly exaggerated.

I’m reminded of a Frank Rich column from a while back, noting McCain’s record of being consistently wrong about what’s alleged to be his signature issue.

To appreciate this crowd’s spotless record of failure, consider its noisiest standard-bearer, John McCain. He made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this. Asked by Katie Couric last week about our failures in Afghanistan, McCain spoke as if he were an innocent bystander: “I think the reason why we didn’t do a better job on Afghanistan is our attention — either rightly or wrongly — was on Iraq.” As Tonto says to the Lone Ranger, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

And yet, for much of the political establishment, McCain enjoys unrivaled credibility. I suppose this means an expedited withdrawal will now enjoy mainstream credibility given that McCain has put it on the table?

Foreign Policy and John McCain

McCain on Afghanistan: leaving is an option

Updated