In attempting the frame the question of Iraq during the campaign, John McCain repeatedly states that he will “never surrender” and that by following his plan our troops will leave with “victory and honor.”
He also states that we are “winning” in Iraq. On the military front, he’ll get no argument from most people. Petraeus and the troops are winning in Iraq (I say they have won). The surge really has worked.
But his rhetoric raises an obvious contradiction. If we are winning, why repeat this business about never surrendering? That isn’t the talk of a winner. And why worry about victory and honor when they are so close at hand? The answer, McCain will say, is that we haven’t won yet.
And this is where he snatches defeat from the jaws of victory and turns our winning troops into losers. For craven political purposes, he is attempting to reframe our victory as incomplete. He is, in effect, stripping the military of the praise and reward it rightfully deserves. Our troops have done a brilliant job in securing the country and creating the conditions for political compromise and reconciliation. Why not give them that credit?
Because McCain knows that Iraq is not a fully solved problem. He knows that there are terrible, intractable political problems in Iraq that, ultimately, will undermine all the good work our soldiers have done. So his solution, hold off on the victory parade. Recast our winning troops as losers until the political problems are solved.
This is a kind of extortion, with our troops as the victims. If, as the Iraqis want, the Americans leave in 2010, will John McCain say we’ve lost? The fact is, the Iraqi military is ready to stand up, so it is now time for America to stand down. Not on our knees, as John McCain would have it, but with pride, honor, and yes, John McCain, victory.
What happens after that? Well, that’s a political issue, and that battle was lost from the start by you, George W. Bush, and the rest of your neocon brethren. Don’t hold our troops hostage to your ideological dreams.
You, my friend, are the loser. Not our troops. And whenever they come home, they will do so with victory and honor because unlike the politicians, they have done their job. They have won the war in Iraq. Now it is up to Obama, al-Maliki, and the Iraqis to win the peace.