The predictable fake outrage over Maverick’s comment yesterday that Barry would rather win an election than win a war is duly summoned, setting up Ann Althouse for a righteous takedown on which I can’t improve. Takeaway: “[I]t’s a strong line. I can see why Klein and his ilk are trying to scare McCain out of using it.” Yeah, tsk-tsking people out of using effective talking points against Obama is a Klein specialty; revisit this clip from May, when he and Anderson Cooper decided it was outside the bounds of polite discourse to remind CNN viewers precisely what it was that Reverend Wright had been preaching from the pulpit at Trinity. Klein was also the guy, you may recall, who worked himself into a lather at the idea that Obama was ever willing to meet with Ahmadinejad, even though (a) that’s a perfectly fair assumption based on Ahmadinejad’s role within the Iranian regime, and (b) Obama himself once suggested as much at a press conference. If the rest of the media is chest-deep in the tank for Obama, Klein’s already fully submerged. No sense getting worked up over what he thinks any more than the average nutroots blogger.

Let me pick up on this line from his post, though, because it shouldn’t pass without comment:

The reality is that neither Barack Obama nor Nouri al-Maliki nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be “lost” at this point.

Really? Tom Maguire knows someone who does. I know someone too: H.R. McMaster, the military’s resident counterinsurgent genius. From a May symposium at AEI:

In terms of the perishable conditions, I think it is related to the point I made in the beginning about the misperception. The war in Iraq doesn’t end if we leave prematurely. It gets worse. I think we’ve got a glimpse of that before. The key is answering the question how resilient is it? Can it be maintained? Have we sustained the effort and are stabilizing efforts in Iraq long enough so that that kind of confidence building from the top down reinforces the kind of bottom political accommodation that has occurred…

I would focus on not disengaging prematurely … before the kind of confidence has been built between Iraqis and their government, Iraqis and their own security forces.

Obamites will argue that he agrees about not withdrawing “prematurely,” but that’s basically incoherent in the context of an arbitrary timetable. Nothing makes 16 months any more credible as a period of “maturity” than 12 months or 24 months, except possibly some very hazy estimate of when the IA will be ready to take over. But if readiness is the standard, then simply make readiness the standard. To my mind, if Afghanistan really is in such dire straits that we can’t spare another moment without reinforcements, then “everyone out of Iraq now” is a more defensible position than some 16-month timeline that seems to exist for no better reason than that it’s a politically palatable “reasonable” compromise.

One other point from McMaster. Maverick’s taking heat this morning for his revisionist history of the surge, which did not in fact precede the Awakening; the left is in a rage about it because McCain wants voters to believe that all improvements in Iraq flow from the extra troops while the left basically wants them to believe that none of the improvements do, that the surge was some sort of happy twist of fate that happened to coincide with Sunnis and Shia summarily putting aside their differences. Per McMaster, tain’t so. The mechanics of trust-building via the presence of U.S. forces:

So what’s changed? Iraq’s communities have largely stopped shooting at each other. That has been an achievement of the physical security efforts of our forces and I would highlight very courageous and determined Iraqi security forces who took extraordinary risk to make that happen and have fought in a determined way to make that happen. What we have seen is a result of people stopping shooting each other, which is the first step in getting people to talk to each other, I guess. There has been some real bottom up movement toward the political accommodation I mentioned just a moment ago…

In terms of credit going to the U.S. and how there is a concern, there is definitely a concern. Where you typically found that happens is in areas that have been or where communities have been pitted against each other in sectarian or ethnic violence in particular, they will say American army can come in, no Iraqi army, no police because they fear that the Iraqi army and the police will be agents of one sect or another and will make the situation worse. Once U.S. forces come in alongside Iraqi army and they build confidence in the Iraqi army, then people will say, Iraqis will say at that local level, bring on the Iraqi army but keep the police out.

On a related note, see this shrewd post from George Packer at the New Yorker yesterday about the thin green line buffering Sunnis who are still suspicious of Maliki’s motives — and therefore oppose a timetable — and the Shiite majority, both of whom are gradually learning to trust each other. The surge may have been a lesser factor than the Awakening in a homogeneous province like Anbar, but homogeneous provinces aren’t where the Srebrenicas would have played out (or at least, not the first Srebrenicas) had we packed up and left when Barry wanted us to. Exit question per Althouse: Why is Klein angrier at McCain for what he said than at the fact that the left was prepared to consign Iraq to that possible fate by pulling troops out prematurely two years ago?

Tags: Barack Obama