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In Which I Observe the Greatness of Tom Maguire

July 25, 2008
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I know I tend to be, er, rather strident here at the Society for the Politically Incontinent, and for the folks that don’t see me often, it must paint an ugly picture. That’s just the deal here I’m afraid. It’s a depends-free zone for my rants, cheaper than therapy and less annoying for the Countess.

Tom Maguire of Just One Minute does a better job doing political blogging than I ever will, and in the last few days has made some great observations. In fact, today he hit the perfecta: great stuff from top to bottom, from I Agree With Jonah Goldberg (Who Agrees With Me) to Good Speech In Berlin.

There’s a lot I’d love to touch on but I would encourage anyone interested in seeing what I think my non-evil twin would look like to click on over

In Sorting Out The Surge he takes a look at the McCain/Obama dust-up over the surge:

Now, the Dem criticism of McCain’s view is that the Anbar Awakening had started before the increase in troop levels. But if McCain has the timing wrong, what about Obama? How could the US have failed to anticipate a Sunni uprising that was already occuring?

Indeed, this idea that the Anbar Awakening was just a lucky coincidence with the surge is such a preposterous idea that (like John McCain) I have a hard time believing it’s being floated about mostly unchallenged. From the Presidents Jan 2007 address announcing the surge:

As we make these changes, we will continue to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq. Its home base is Anbar Province. Al Qaeda has helped make Anbar the most violent area of Iraq outside the capital. A captured al Qaeda document describes the terrorists’ plan to infiltrate and seize control of the province. This would bring al Qaeda closer to its goals of taking down Iraq’s democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad.

Our military forces in Anbar are killing and capturing al Qaeda leaders, and they are protecting the local population. Recently, local tribal leaders have begun to show their willingness to take on al Qaeda. And as a result, our commanders believe we have an opportunity to deal a serious blow to the terrorists. So I have given orders to increase American forces in Anbar Province by 4,000 troops. These troops will work with Iraqi and tribal forces to keep up the pressure on the terrorists. America’s men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda’s safe haven in Afghanistan — and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.

In contrast:

Sen. Barack Obama on Tuesday [July 15] called the war in Iraq a “dangerous distraction,” and said more emphasis must be placed on the battle in Afghanistan. “As should have been apparent to President Bush and Sen. [John] McCain — the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was“.

It never was? That is a preposterous assertion, yet it has been made again and again by Obama and the Democrats over the past few years. It boggles the mind, it flies in the face of so many facts. (Here’s a bunch of non-Maguire quotes to back up that assertion.)

John McCain was right about what was needed to win in Iraq. And although at times he seemed like a lone voice, he wasn’t totally alone. In Where is General Zinni And What Is He Thinking? he notes this article from Dec 2006:

These days General Zinni is delivering another provocative message: that leaving Iraq quickly would strengthen Iranian influence throughout the Middle East, create a sanctuary for terrorist groups, encourage even more sectarian strife in Iraq and risk turmoil in an oil-rich region.

“This is not Vietnam or Somalia or those places where you can walk away,” General Zinni said in a recent interview. (He served in both countries.) “If we just pull out, we will find ourselves back in short order.”

Instead, he says, the United States should leave open the door for a temporary increase in American troops, an argument he included in a broader plan prepared for the World Security Institute, a research organization, and made public on Monday. “It may be necessary to surge them for a short term,” he said.

General Zinni noted that his position was similar to that of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, a staunch supporter of the decision to invade. “I do believe more troops are required on the ground,” the general said. “I believe what Senator McCain says.”

Remember Obama was at one point advocating removing all combat troops by March 2008.

Then there’s this stunner from journalist Joe Klein in Klein v. Klein,

The reality is that neither Barack Obama nor Nouri al-Maliki nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be “lost” at this point.

That was July 23. But on July 20th he was defending Obama making leaving Iraq a priority, despite civil chaos (not civil war anymore, eh?) and a loss of American influence in the region. Then this Klein bit from April of this year:

Few people believe that the Sunni Awakening movement—the insurgents who flipped to our side after a fling with al-Qaeda—would stay peaceful if the U.S. military weren’t there as a buffer between them and the Shi’ites.

Here’s the depressing part though:

…voters will not be presented with a clear choice between a candidate committed to achieving victory in Iraq and a candidate committed to declaring Bush’s war to be a defeat. Instead, we will have a choice between a candidate who would have avoided Bush’s mess and a candidate who would have been better at cleaning it up. That debate will fascinate historians and pundits but no one else.

Fizzle. Thanks to Tom and sorry for stealing so many of his quotes. Just go there and scroll down.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Timmy C. permalink
    July 25, 2008 9:03 pm

    Can I play my usual role of “devil’s advocate” to what i read as your main criticisms over the last two posts?

    1 Barack is not simply saying he was wrong about the surge and that his previous position would have lead to calamity.

    Is that really his plan? He’s often said “we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.”

    He was very clear in his orignal plan that it left room for adustment for good or bad news on the ground:

    If there was real progress:

    “Should these benchmarks be met, the plan allows for the temporary suspension of this redeployment, subject to the agreement of Congress.”

    Specifically he could pause the withdrawal if the Iraqi government “is making significant progress in reducing sectarian violence in Iraq and in reducing the size and operational effectiveness of sectarian militias in Iraq…”

    Likewise, if there was serious destabilization it more forces could be brought in…and his initial plan kept troops in the region to be ready for any craziness, should that have gone up. “The plan would also retain some U.S. forces in Iraq and the region to help deter atrocities by sectarian militias and aggression from Iraq’s neighbors.”

    2. Barack is being inconsistent, he did not initially emphasis a redeployment of troops to Afghanistan in Feb.

    Actually he did: Again, In his proposed Iraq De-escalation Act:

    ” in redeploying the Armed Forces from Iraq under this section, appropriate units of the Armed Forces should be redeployed–

    (1) to the United States;

    (2) to Afghanistan, in order to enhance United States military operations in that country;

    (3) elsewhere in the region, to serve as an over-the-horizon force to prevent the conflict in Iraq from becoming a wider war, to reassure allies of the United States of the commitment of the United States to remain engaged in the region, and to position troops to strike directly at al-Qaeda; and

    (4) elsewhere, to meet urgent United States security needs.”

    Also in speeches in 2007:

    “Moreover, until we change our approach in Iraq, it will be increasingly difficult to refocus our efforts on the challenges in the wider region – on the conflict in the Middle East, where Hamas and Hezbollah feel emboldened and Israel’s prospects for a secure peace seem uncertain; on Iran, which has been strengthened by the war in Iraq; and on Afghanistan, where more American forces are needed to battle al Qaeda, track down Osama bin Laden, and stop that country from backsliding toward instability.

    3. He is hypocritical. He criticizes a narrow focus on Iraq but has a narrow focus on Afghanistan.

    See the above quote on “wider issues” of Israeli peace, Iran, AND Afghanistan. And i could find TONS of other similar ones from that time.

    4. The idea that the Anbar awakening was a “lucky coincidence” with the surge is preposterous.


    Colonel McFarland’s article in the March/April Military times:

    Why We Succeeded

    Clearly, a combination of factors, some of which we may not yet fully understand, contributed to this pivital success. As mentioned before, the enemy overplayed its hand and the people were tired of Al Qaeda. A series of assasinations had elevated younger, more aggressive tribal leaders to positions of influence. A growing concern that the U.S. would leave Iraq and leave the Sunnis defenseless against Al Qaeda and Iranian-supported militias made those younger leaders open to our overtures. Our willingness to adapt our plan based on the advice of the sheiks, our staunch and timely support for them in times of danger and need, and our ability to deliver on our promises convinced them that they could do business with us…

    So alot of factors where present, but a big one was the threat of us leavingnot the idea of a surge that played a key part early on, no?

    And didn’t the Anbar awakening precede the surge by a year or so? Is this timeline mistaken?

    Events in Anbar Province, 2006-2008

    •June 2006: Ready First Combat Team (1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division) led by Colonel Sean MacFarland arrives in Anbar’s capital Ramadi. [Military Review, March/April 2008]

    • September 9, 2006: In cooperation with MacFarland’s team, Sheikh Abu Risha organizes the first meeting of what became the Anbar Awakening. [Military Review, March/April 2008]

    • January 10, 2007: President announces the surge in a speech to the nation. [White House, 1/10/07]

    • Late January / Early February 2007: First surge brigades begin arriving. Only 2,700 new troops have arrived by end of February. [Brookings Iraq Index, 3/29/07]

    • February 2007: Ready First Combat Team begins leaving Anbar. Hostile contacts with insurgents had dropped 70% from June 2006 to February 2007. [Military Review, March/April 2008]

    5. Saying Iraq was never the “central front” of the war on terror is “preposterous.”

    Barack seems pretty consistently saying Afghanistan and Pakistan were the central front. It’s where AQ was, versus Iraq where they weren’t in any meaningful way, prior to our invading.

    And Obama seems consistant saying that as we moved forces and resources from Afghanistan, we were leaving the “central front” and instead going into a distraction and then a trap that distracted us from that front.

    Bin Laden was pretty clear on his strategy for us in Iraq in 2004 was to get us stuck in a “swamp” and bleed us dry…

    in quotes that seem scarily prescient of what has actually been done to us by the invasion.

    “We are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy…We, alongside the mujahedeen, bled Russia for 10 years until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat…[it is] easy for us to provoke and bait this administration…

    …Every dollar of al Qaeda defeated a million dollars, by the permission of Allah, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs… As for the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars. …[As for Bush] the darkness of black gold blurred his vision and insight, and he gave priority to private interests over the public interests of America.

    So the war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threaten his future.”

  2. July 26, 2008 8:09 am

    Good Lord Tim- I’m speechless.

    If you are proud of your party’s threats to abandon our allies in Iraq, defend away.

    Obama has clearly taken a great many positions on Iraq, leaving a breadcrumb trail of quotes so that he could claim almost anything depending on the situation. What he primarily has done is cas him self as the anti-war candidate who will bring the troops home. This hawkish turn regarding Afghanistan is simply a general election stance.

    You all mocked the idea that the surge would succeed. I have it the archives here, you should go back and read some of your old comments.

    The truth is, we kicked AQ out of Afghanistan in short order. AQ responded by retreating to Iraq, where they tried to ignite a civil war to defeat us. They nearly succeeded. Your party came perilously close to cutting of funding for our efforts there, no matter what some obscure Obama position paper might read.

    You seem to be saying we shouldn’t have fought AQ in Iraq because they weren’t there before we invaded. That’s peposterous.

    Your turnabout, like Obama’s on this is absolutely infuriating. This line of reasoning was not what was being discussed for the past few years. I have to give it to him though, the election needs to be mostly about the future. I just wish we hadn’t spent the last 7 years endlessly arguing about the past.

  3. Timmy C. permalink
    July 26, 2008 8:40 am

    OK: 3 things:

    1. The quotes from Obama weren’t fom offhanded various speeches over time showing varied positions, there were all from his core plan that you are criticizing.

    2: You ignored 3/4ths of the points I made.

    3. I ‘m not sure what “turn about” you are referring to as to my position as in this post I didn’t state my thinking on the surge in hindsight…. I just tried to fact check against some of your criticisms.

    (Happy to do that in a future comment, but didn’t do that here)

  4. July 26, 2008 9:04 am

    BTW, good to have you back.

    Quickly, for it is Saturday AM, the very fact that there are 2 sets of quotes supports my position that Barack Obama holds a wealth of positions on Iraq etc. Even he made this point in the Katie Couric interview- something to the effect that “you’ve quoted me this way, but you could find other quotes as well”.

    Clap harder friend!!!!!

  5. Timmy C. permalink
    July 26, 2008 12:11 pm


    You were criticizing Barack’s Jan 2007 plan for Iraq, and I put two quotes showing that your criticisms were not based on facts of the actual plan.

    One quote came from his 2007 announcement of the bill Barack wrote that was the plan you criticized, and the other came from the text of that bill itself.

    Neither quote was from “shifting positions” over time. Both were from the same plan, the one you were critiquing.


  1. Toward A Better Debate « Strange Monkey Doll

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