Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Strategy vs. Tactics

Not your usual democrat.

Now, all of us recognize that we must do more than look back - we must make a judgment about how to move forward. What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done? Senator McCain wants to talk of our tactics in Iraq; I want to focus on a new strategy for Iraq and the wider world.

It has been 18 months since President Bush announced the surge. As I have said many times, our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence. General Petraeus has used new tactics to protect the Iraqi population. We have talked directly to Sunni tribes that used to be hostile to America, and supported their fight against al Qaeda. Shiite militias have generally respected a cease-fire. Those are the facts, and all Americans welcome them.

For weeks, now, Senator McCain has argued that the gains of the surge mean that I should change my commitment to end the war. But this argument misconstrues what is necessary to succeed in Iraq, and stubbornly ignores the facts of the broader strategic picture that we face.

In the 18 months since the surge began, the strain on our military has increased, our troops and their families have borne an enormous burden, and American taxpayers have spent another $200 billion in Iraq. That's over $10 billion each month. That is a consequence of our current strategy.

In the 18 months since the surge began, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. June was our highest casualty month of the war. The Taliban has been on the offensive, even launching a brazen attack on one of our bases. Al Qaeda has a growing sanctuary in Pakistan. That is a consequence of our current strategy.

In the 18 months since the surge began, as I warned at the outset - Iraq's leaders have not made the political progress that was the purpose of the surge. They have not invested tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues to rebuild their country. They have not resolved their differences or shaped a new political compact.

"Slam dunk" to me. The key question of this election is whether Americans can understand the nuances of strategy -- or do they want a "chump to talk shit" (compare Obama's and McCain's responses to Iran's missle test for what I'm talking about) about threats and not take responsibility for a failed strategy.

Also seems pretty savvy politically, how does McCain respond to this -- assuming he can even string a few sentences together in a coherent manner. More open ended (emotional) saber rattling about how bad the bad guys are (they are Terrorists, after all) or whether he tries to to come up with a new packing for the old lack-of-a-strategy from Bush ("Goddammit, we are Americans, we are free, we want you to be free, and we'll kick your ass to make sure it happens." Which, in the short term, doesn't appear to have worked all the well in spite (and probably because of) all the chest thumping.

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