Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Anatomy of the "McCain's Soft-on-Terror" Talking Point

Joe Klein, for all the abuse he takes for his infidelities to the hard-left antiwar mob, offers up some wildly intemperate Democratic Party talking points.

Here's Klein trumpeting the "McCain's soft-on-terror" talking point:

McCain's loose, inaccurate talk continues a sad pattern he has shown on national security matters, particularly with regard to Iraq, where he is a loose cannon, firing off hot-button words like "victory" and "surrender"--words that his hero General David Petraeus has never and would never use. As it now stands, McCain believes that Iraq, where 150,000 U.S. troops are chasing after 3,500 Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia terrorists, is the "central front" in the war against terrorism--and he is on the record opposed to taking military action against the real Al Qaeda, which is actively working to destabilize Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and may be planning the next 9/11 in the mountains of Waziristan. Indeed, the election results in Pakistan this week may lead to further instability, perhaps a military coup, which could make U.S. action--action, not invasion--to root out Al Qaeda all the more necessary.

A central foreign policy discussion in the general election should be: Are our troops deployed appropriately to meet the threats we are facing? Should we have more in Afghanistan and fewer in Iraq? (McCain, like Bush, has already ceded his authority as Commander-in-Chief on that decision to Petraeus, whom, he says, should have the last word on troop levels in Iraq--an abdication of authority that raises deep questions about McCain's ability to conduct a coherent national security policy.)

In sum, John McCain, who claims to take national security seriously, made a foolish statement to score political points last night. At the very least, I hope he retracts it and joins Obama in the effort to defeat Al Qaeda.
Klein's problem? Oversimplification and ignorance.

It's not just "3,500" al Qaeda terrorists were fighting in Iraq:
Throughout the various phases of the war, Americans have battled an ex-Baathist Sunni-led insurgency, a Syrian-enabled foreign-fighter terrorist force (including deadbeat jihadis from across the region, from the Occupied Territories to Pakistan), an Iranian-backed Shiite-majoity campaign of barbarous ethnic cleansing, to today's version of a low-grade, high-variety anti-American campaign of bottom-of-the-barrel nihilist mayhem.

Klein should know better.

As for Afghanistan,
it's simply false that the U.S. has neglected the Kabul regime in military/stategic planning:
Six years after the first U.S. bombs began falling on Afghanistan's Taliban government and its Al Qaeda guests, America is planning for a long stay.

Originally envisioned as a temporary home for invading U.S. forces, the sprawling American base at Bagram, a former Soviet outpost in the shadow of the towering Hindu Kush mountains, continues to expand.

Today the United States has about 25,000 troops in the country, and other NATO nations contribute another 25,000. The total is more than three times the number of international troops in the country four years ago, when the Taliban appeared defeated.
Current planning represents adjustments to missteps in U.S. strategy after initial post-conflict stabilization for Afghanistan proved inadequate to the suppression of renascent insurgent activity.

Of course, McCain's fully aware of our difficulties in Afghanistan. The Arizona Senator laid out his commitment to long-term Afghan security in a Foreign Affairs essay last year:

There has been progress in Afghanistan: over two million refugees have returned, the welfare of Afghan citizens has meaningfully improved, and historic elections took place in 2004. The Taliban's recent resurgence, however, threatens to lead Afghanistan to revert to its pre-9/11 role as a sanctuary for terrorists with global reach. Our recommitment to Afghanistan must include increasing NATO forces, suspending the debilitating restrictions on when and how those forces can fight, expanding the training and equipping of the Afghan National Army through a long-term partnership with NATO to make it more professional and multiethnic, and deploying significantly more foreign police trainers. It must also address the current political deficiencies in judicial reform, reconstruction, governance, and anticorruption efforts.
Klein's particularly off base in his silly criticism of McCain's national security credentials. It's hardly "punting" the war issue to a supreme commander in the field who's the architect of the most important strategic-military comeback since the Vietnam war.

The fact is, it's
folly for the Democrats to even consider outflanking McCain on military matters:

If Democrats try to do that, they play into another campaign based on fear and military strength. And they lose, again. John Kerry's military career far out-trumped Bush's, but Republicans Swift-boated Kerry and won on a fear campaign.
The "McCain's Soft-on-Terror" talking point's not going to fly. Klein - and potential Democratic Party hangers-on - should rethink it before it bites him from behind.