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Lindsey Graham's elusive credibility

Lindsey Graham's elusive credibility
Lindsey Graham's elusive credibility

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has heard the rumors about expedited troop withdrawal plans in Afghanistan, but the conservative senator is, not surprisingly, opposed to such talk.

"The problem with this administration is that every time the generals give them good advice, they've got to change it," Graham said. "Why is [Gen. John Allen, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan] wrong? ... The last thing we want is a bunch of politicians who have been wrong about everything controlling the war."

Michael Cohen noted in response, "Literally everything in this paragraph is wrong."

First, let's begin with some history. As Steve Metz reminded me on Twitter last night, in 2006 and 2007 when the Bush Administration was debating surging 30,000 troops to Iraq (a move supported by one Lindsay Graham) it was opposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That's right the politicians (who had by the way been wrong about everything in regard to Iraq up to that point) overruled the view of the generals on the ground. This apparently is ok, because the definition of when it is appropriate for a "bunch of politicians" to disagree with the military is when Lindsey Graham is one of those politicians.Second, the first piece of "good advice" given to the Obama Administration by the "generals" came in 2009 when they recommended that the White House send surge troops to Afghanistan to fight a population-centric counter-insurgency. The White House, as we all know, went along with this plan (which of course was supported by Lindsey Graham).So hey I haven't really paying much attention to Afghanistan ... how is that working out?

Michael's right, but it was that last line in Graham's quote that stood out for me -- for a couple of reasons.

"The last thing we want is a bunch of politicians who have been wrong about everything controlling the war." Well, in the United States, civilian control of the military is one of those principles that's fundamental to our democracy. Elected officials (read: politicians) have to maintain control over the military's decisions, and for Graham to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.

But even if we put constitutional principles aside for a moment, it takes real chutzpah for Lindsey Graham, of all people, to complain about those who've been "wrong about everything." Does the senator not remember what he's been saying for the last decade? Over the last decade, Graham's been wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, how long the war in Iraq would last, how well the war in Iraq was going, how well the war in Afghanistan was going, how the U.S. mission in Libya was going, etc.

If the last thing we want is a politician who's been wrong about everything having influence over U.S. war policy, Lindsey Graham should probably be ready to enjoy some quiet time.