Here’s the full quote from John McCain:
Q: If it’s working, senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?
McCAIN: No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine.
Now, remember this one?
Last month, at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a crowd member asked McCain about a Bush statement that troops could stay in Iraq for 50 years.
“Maybe 100,” McCain replied. “As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”
The significance here is not so much that McCain is saying that it’s “not important” when the troops come home, it’s his continued pattern of defining the mission in Iraq as permanent in parallel with Korea and Germany. That is the genesis of the “100 years” comment and the “not important” comment.
What he is saying is that the US will pacify Iraq and then use it as some kind of strategic reward ops center in the region. What I can’t quite get is why we would need more forces in the Middle East than we already have bases for in Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. With strong allies Turkey and Israel right there as well, I’m unclear on what we need bases in Iraq for.
South Korea is a different situation, because there never has been a peace treaty. There still technically is a war, and there is one strongly defined nation and region that is our ally (unlike Viet Nam or Iraq…) Germany unconditionally surrendered and became the front line in the cold war. They’ve grown accustomed to our mostly benign presence and in some aspects rely on the integrated NATO command for defense. However, we have begun to move many of our operations out of Germany, the UK, and old NATO countries into new NATO countries to assist them with anti-Russian security.
The biggest stupid mistake that the US has made in all of its post WWII military operations is to pretend that each war would be a re-run of WWII. It wasn’t in Korea; it wasn’t in Viet Nam; and even if it looked that way in Gulf I, we settled for less in the end. And it’s not in Iraq.
We will never be able to clean up enough friendly turf, or get some huge sect (maybe–maybe the Kurds if they don’t think we’ve fucked them over enough) in order to maintain stable bases. And anything more than de facto Kurdish sovereignty would compromise our relationship with Turkey and provoke Iran.
It’s not just that McCain is some crusty mean war hawk who wants to kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out. He’s an ignoramus that thinks every war is a broken-record repeat of WWII no matter what the conditions are. He thinks that we can just go around the world overthrowing tinpot dictators and creating new democracies that are bolstered by our troop presence. (This is presumably the case in Afghanistan as well…)
It’s wrong. It’s demonstrably wrong. Cuba resisted us for decades. The Philipines did too, until the Japanese came. The Vietnamese kicked us out. These were all imperial wars, not wars like WWII.
If our mission in Iraq was to prevent WMD creation and remove Saddam, we acheived that years ago. It’s time to let what will happen in Iraq happen.