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McCain's Century-long Problem

Democrats seem to have found the one criticism that gets John McCain angrier than anything else — bring up his comments about keeping U.S. troops i

Democrats seem to have found the one criticism that gets John McCain angrier than anything else — bring up his comments about keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for “100 years.” Every time a high profile Dem (Clinton, Obama, Dean, et al) mentions this, he becomes enraged and insists his comments have been mischaracterized.

It’s true that McCain did not, as a point of fact, indicate that he wants to see the ongoing war continue until 2108, but rather, he envisions thousands of American troops “maintaining a presence” in the country for 100 years, after some semblance of stability has been established. They’re not, to be fair, the same thing.

As far as the McCain campaign is concerned, this realization should effectively end the controversy. Joe Klein argues that McCain’s confused about this, too.

The problem with John McCain’s 100 years in Iraq formulation isn’t that he’s calling for 95 more years of combat — he isn’t — but that he thinks you can have a long-term basing arrangement in Iraq similar to those we have in Germany or Korea. That betrays a fairly acute lack of knowledge about both Iraq and Islam. It may well be possible to station U.S. troops in small, peripheral kingdoms like Dubai or Kuwait, but Iraq is — and has always been — volatile, tenuous, centrally-located and nearly as sensitive to the presence of infidels as Saudi Arabia. It is a terrible candidate for a long-term basing agreement.

Quite right. I’d just add, however, that McCain already knows this. In fact, he’s admitted as much.

The point seems to have been largely forgotten, but back in November, after months of insisting that Korea could be a model for a long-term troop presence in Iraq, McCain abandoned this position, saying he doesn’t want to use Korea as a model, and adding that the “nature of the society in Iraq” and the “religious aspects” of the country make withdrawal inevitable.

Soon after, McCain went back to his original position again, saying that a Korean model is entirely appropriate. So, for those keeping score at home, McCain 1) endorsed a multi-decade presence in Iraq; 2) denounced a multi-decade presence in Iraq; 3) re-embraced his first point; and 4) blasted those who agreed with his second point as being incompetent.

At the risk of sounding impolite, this guy is starting to make Bush look like he’s engaged and knowledgeable.

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