Saturday, July 26, 2008

McCain pulls a Maliki, almost

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As the NYT is reporting, the warmonger of warmongers seems to be having second thoughts (or third or fourth, or wherever he is now):

First the Iraqi government gave Senator Barack Obama a boost by seeming to embrace his proposal for a 16-month timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. Now could Senator John McCain, who built his candidacy in large part on his opposition to such a schedule, possibly be following suit?

"I think it's a pretty good timetable," Mr. McCain said Friday in an interview on "The Situation Room" on CNN, before adding that it should be based "on the conditions on the ground."

Of course, that qualifier -- "the conditions on the ground" -- is all-important here. For McCain, the conditions on the ground may never, or at least for a good long time, allow for any sort of significant withdrawal of U.S. troops. And, while Obama too has recently talked about withdrawal in terms of stability on the ground, McCain has been fairly consistent in opposing any sort of timetable for withdrawal, unlike Obama.

Until now.

Simply put, I think, reality in terms of the ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq has passed McCain by. Maliki's endorsement of Obama's timetable was perhaps not as dramatic a singular event as some might think -- it did not take place in a vacuum, nor did it come out of nowhere -- but it signalled at long last that Iraqi political opinion is much closer to Obama and the proponents of withdrawal sooner rather than later than to McCain and the "100-year-war" advocates on the other side.

As ardent a warmonger as he may be, McCain isn't entirely delusional. Surely he can, at times, see the writing on the wall. (Or maybe I'm giving him too much of the benefit of the doubt?) And the writing calls for withdrawal not if or when there is stability "on the ground," or however the "conditions" must be, but sooner rather than later and according to a firm timetable. A timetable made less sense a few years ago. Now it's what the Iraqis want -- and what makes sense for the U.S., too.

Not that McCain's fellow warmongers will give in to what Obama and the war's critics and opponents have been calling for for a long, long time. After all, what they want is not just virtually endless war, and not just a permanent U.S. foothold in the region, but essentially global American hegemony. That on top of being utterly delusional with respect to the reality of the war and occupation.

But McCain is running for president, not barricading himself behind the walls of an administration nearing its end. Whether he likes it or not, and whether he wants to or not, he must deal with what is actually going on. And what is going on is the ascendancy of Obama's position on Iraq. McCain can't come out and actually endorse Obama's proposal, unlike Maliki, but in a signficant concession, a significant admission, he was driven by "the conditions on the ground" to do just that.

Almost.

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