This perhaps isn’t the most opportune day to reemphasize one’s commitment to the mission, but it’s still a solid B+, to borrow a phrase. It perks up halfway through and ends memorably, but there’s simply not much here that hasn’t been said before and at least as well. A mild disappointment for something so anticipated, although as Barnett says, in this case it’s very much the thought that counts.
It’s broken up roughly into four parts: WoT overview, progress in Iraq, our moral obligation and the consequences of withdrawal, and Democratic weakness. Pam Hess would appreciate this:
To enumerate the strategic interests at stake in Iraq does not address our moral obligation to a people we liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. I suspect many in this audience, and most members of Congress, look back at America’s failure to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda with shame. I know I do. And yet I fear the potential for genocide and ethnic cleansing in Iraq is even worse. The sectarian violence, the social divisions, the armaments, the weakened security apparatus of the state – all the ingredients are there. Unless we fight to prevent it, our withdrawal will be coupled with a genocide in which we are complicit. Given our security interests and our moral investment in Iraq, so long as we have a chance to prevail we must try to prevail.
This is also well stated. I’d call it elementary, but Democrats pretend not to understand it so how elementary can it be?
It is impossible to separate sectarian violence from the war against al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is following an explicit strategy to foment civil war in Iraq. The only way to reduce and finally end sectarian violence is to provide greater security to the population than we have in the past, as we are doing now in Baghdad; to encourage Iraqis to abandon their reliance on local militias, and to destroy al Qaeda and other truly irreconcilable enemies of the United States and the Iraqi people.
And finally, big money:
Before I left for Iraq, I watched with regret as the House of Representatives voted to deny our troops the support necessary to carry out their new mission. Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender? In Iraq, only our enemies were cheering. A defeat for the United States is a cause for mourning not celebrating. And determining how the United States can avert such a disaster should encourage the most sober, public-spirited reasoning among our elected leaders not the giddy anticipation of the next election. Democrats who voted to authorize this war, and criticized the failed strategy that has led us to this perilous moment, have the same responsibility I do, to offer support when that failure is recognized and the right strategy is proposed and the right commanders take the field to implement it or, at the least, to offer an alternative strategy that has some relationship to reality…
Democrats, who deny our soldiers the means to prevent an American defeat, have chosen another road. It may appear to be the easier course of action, but it is a much more reckless one, and it does them no credit even if it gives them an advantage in the next election. This is an historic choice, with ramifications for Americans not even born yet. Let’s put aside for a moment the small politics of the day. The judgment of history should be the approval we seek, not the temporary favor of the latest public opinion poll.
I’m not convinced that there’s no Giuliani-esque pillar-of-strength political benefit to all this. The CW is that McCain is nuts to throw in his lot with Bush on the surge, but really, what does it cost him? Giuliani and Romney support the war almost as strongly; whoever emerges will be hammered by the left for his hawkishness anyway. McCain’s been critical enough of Bush in the past that he can distinguish his support for the mission from his support for the strategy down the road. So why not be a “statesman” — a term he uses expressly in the speech to draw a line between himself and the Democrats — and take the lead on Iraq? It’s earning him glowing praise from righty bloggers who normally find his capital-M maverickness distasteful; I’m sure it does him some good with the base, too.
Of course, if the surge fails, it probably does hurt him the most. If you believe Andrea Mitchell, GOP support will collapse in August unless there’s some progress on the ground; if there isn’t, I’ll be curious to see how how McCain’s reorients his message to deal with the prospect of withdrawal. “We should have stuck with it” doesn’t sound like a winner if there’s bipartisan support for the opposite proposition.
There’ll be video here shortly if you’re in the mood, but the speech is long and McCain isn’t enough of a showman to make it worth my while, at least.