Joe Klein melts down over McCain’s shot at Obama on Iraq

posted at 12:50 pm on July 23, 2008 by Allahpundit

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?


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nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be “lost” at this point.

So does that mean they believe we’ve WON?

tree hugging sister on July 23, 2008 at 12:52 PM

Nothing makes 16 months any more credible as a period of “maturity” than 12 months or 24 months,

Which is why even though no time table obviously means likely 5 years or more in Iraq, McCain should be stressing that ‘conditions on the ground’ means we could come home tomorrow if Iraq is a stable and secure ally of ours. Why wait 16 months on a timetable if the activity on the ground support an earlier withdrawal.

Stress that we all want all of our troops home now. Victory (defined as stability in Iraqi sovereignty) is the only restriction on our troops’ triumphant return. The amount of time it takes is irrelevant. Hopefully we’ll bring them all back home in 6 months, not 16.

Even if it takes longer. . . SAYING it could be shorter based on conditions on the ground makes people like it more.

ThackerAgency on July 23, 2008 at 12:56 PM

The left hates counter mau-mau operations, especially when directed against the more feeble members of their tribe.

Dusty on July 23, 2008 at 12:58 PM

I thought 16 months were not enough time to bring home the troops and our equipment. hmmm..are we planning to leave all that equipment for the Iraqis? No one seems to be mentioning that.

becki51758 on July 23, 2008 at 1:02 PM

Whether the Iraq war can be lost at this point depends greatly on whose side you’re on and if you support Obama which is looking more and more to be the same question.

Buzzy on July 23, 2008 at 1:03 PM

I remember seeing Klein in 1996 following Victor Morales around Texas in his effort to defeat Phil Gramm in the Senate election that year. It was about a week before Joe was exposed as the author of “Primary Colors”, after denying he had written the tome, which at the time was considered a bit of a negative for Bill Clinton at a time when he was running for re-election, and the questions were if the author, once discovered, would face some payback from the Clintons.

Based on those two things, I’d say Klein is deeply enthralled with the concept of minority candidates, if they’re running against Republicans, and also has no qualms about bending the truth when it suits his needs. I’d also guess if Barack gets elected, Mr. Anonymous will be writing another presidential roman a clef for the 2012 campaign, showing negatives about the president he didn’t want to mention four years earlier.

jon1979 on July 23, 2008 at 1:03 PM

Joe Klein volunteered to be an Obama diaper, and he’s all wet.

RushBaby on July 23, 2008 at 1:08 PM

You know it must’ve hit where it hurts whenever you see left wing “outrage” like this.

thirteen28 on July 23, 2008 at 1:16 PM

Obamites will argue that he agrees about not withdrawing “prematurely,” but that’s basically incoherent in the context of an arbitrary timetable.

I finally get it. Barack Obama’s enthusiasm for premature withdrawal. That’s why Michelle is so cranky.

/mysogeny

hillbillyjim on July 23, 2008 at 1:17 PM

Ok I’m fully prepared to be flamed for this, but do we really believe Obama knew the surge would work and said “Yeah but screw it Iraq support is political suicide, I need votes so I’m pushing for a quick pull out”

It’s completely fair to say Obama was blinded by his political views on this war, but something else to say he knew the surge would work and didnt do it. Which by the way I wouldnt rule out, but I dont think he’s quite THAT Machiavellian.

Dash on July 23, 2008 at 1:18 PM

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?

The truth hurts.

Chakra Hammer on July 23, 2008 at 1:21 PM

TIME: Iraq is an unwinnable un-losable quagmire

BohicaTwentyTwo on July 23, 2008 at 1:24 PM

At least McCain’s revisionism on the surge has a basis in reality (clearly the surge encouraged the locals to turn against Al Qaeda). Obama’s revisionism on the surge (that it was caused by Democratic congressional gains in the 2006 elections), was pure fiction.

Infidoll on July 23, 2008 at 1:25 PM

Dash: that’s a fair point. I think it’s more likely Obama just doesn’t care–he wanted a political point that was popular. The leftist base (at the time, enamored with Edwards) is against the war, period. We could be getting ticker tape parades in Baghdad, and they would still want out. Obama moved left to take out Edwards.

He didn’t want the surge to work, I don’t think there’s any doubt of that. That has put him in this terrible bind he’s in, which he’s perhaps trying to dance past by doing his best Fuhrer impression in Germany.

This is Obama’s problem: his policies either don’t work (spectactularly), or they are incoherent. Obama got where he was today by mindless chanting masses, creating the feeling of inevitability. Hillary was taken out by a surge of momentum in February–though she recovered magnificintly, she just couldn’t catch up to Obama “feeling fever.”

Obama’s lost that now. The rallies aren’t working–his policies are being examined. It’s old news in the US that people show up to salute their Messiah. That’s why he’s in Europe–THERE, his adoring, brainless masses are news. And so they dominate the news cycle, pushing his complete intellectual bankruptcy off the front page and replacing it with the “if 90,000 people are this much in love with him, maybe I should be.”

But if 90,000 Germans are in love with him, in a Nazi setting–that might backfire.

Vanceone on July 23, 2008 at 1:25 PM

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?

Because Klein is an unprincipled shill.

hillbillyjim on July 23, 2008 at 1:25 PM

Oh and in b4 Allah.

BohicaTwentyTwo on July 23, 2008 at 1:26 PM

Anyone who has read Michael Yon’s book understands how Petraeus is the key to why things turned around.

Did Barry mention his achievement even once?

benrand on July 23, 2008 at 1:33 PM

Apple-flavored oranges on the fruit plate. Two men, two different goals. McCain wants to win the war. Obama only wants to get out of Iraq. Klein’s attempt at damage control is equivalent to painting over rust.

whitetop on July 23, 2008 at 1:35 PM

Expired: We’re losing, pull out.
Tired: We’ve lost, pull out.
Wired: We’ve won, pull out.

Chuck Schick on July 23, 2008 at 1:36 PM

Vanceone on July 23, 2008 at 1:25 PM

I’m with you on most of that Vance. He ran as the “one guy who had Iraq right” basically. He was against it from the start and that was almost as big a plus for him among democrats as being young, charming and a minority.

Now it turns out that the surge worked, and he was against that from the start too. It’s a huge issue to exploit, and I agree that Klein’s reaction speaks to how potent it is. But still, I think McCain is reaching into a bit of hyperbole to say he would rather win an election than a war.

It’s more accurate to say Obama has made up his mind on Iraq and allowed his preconceived notions, and his inexperience, to blind him to reality. But that’s not a good sound byte ;)

Dash on July 23, 2008 at 1:39 PM

tree hugging sister on July 23, 2008 at 12:52 PM

nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be “lost” at this point.

So does that mean they believe we’ve WON?

Shhh…don’t tell Harry Reid.

ynot4tony2 on July 23, 2008 at 1:45 PM

It’s more accurate to say Obama has made up his mind on Iraq and allowed his preconceived notions, and his inexperience, to blind him to reality. But that’s not a good sound byte ;)

I believe it is more accurate to say that Obama was perfectly willing to leave the Iraqis to their fates, as long as he was seen to be the voice for a change of direction, no matter how wrongheaded. Vanceone had it right; he just didn’t care past the political consequences.

hillbillyjim on July 23, 2008 at 1:47 PM

I don’t want to cause any uproar, but analytically speaking US forces spent a lot of time constrained inside bases for a period, whether that was a factor merely of lacking soldiers, a factor of sensitivity to casualties, a factor of fundamental failure of strategy, or all three..

CLEARLY, any person with even the remotest smidgeon of understanding in military matters understands that adding forces, finally leaving strongholds and engaging the enemy allowed the Iraqis themselves to participate in turning the tide at at whatever level of participation.

These concepts in hypotheticals that the surge is not the root cause of turn around is a whole new level of total stupidity, insanity.

saus on July 23, 2008 at 1:49 PM

That Joe “Primary Colors Liar” Klein is on TIME’s payroll says a lot about TIME.

jgapinoy on July 23, 2008 at 1:56 PM

At least McCain’s revisionism on the surge has a basis in reality (clearly the surge encouraged the locals to turn against Al Qaeda).

No, this isn’t correct. The locals (Sunnis) turned first in 06 and the “surge” was announced in early 07. I would imagine that the surge strengthened the local resolve and the two reinforced each other, but the locals had already turned before the surge had even been announced much less staffed.

okonkolo on July 23, 2008 at 1:59 PM

The locals (Sunnis) turned first in 06

okonkolo on July 23, 2008 at 1:59 PM

The surge started in Ramadi in 2006, but spread throughout Anbar in 2007 and throughout all of Iraq in 2008. Without the surge, the effect would have been localized.

BohicaTwentyTwo on July 23, 2008 at 2:15 PM

I can see why Klein and his ilk are trying to scare McCain out of using it.

Now that I rather doubt.

We will see if McCain uses it, basically calling the other parties Presidential candidate a sell out traitor, or coming pretty close anyway, again without toning it down anyway.

McCain wants voters to believe that all improvements in Iraq flow from the extra troops

That seems to be true.

while the left basically wants them to believe that none of the improvements do

Part of the left which does not seem to include Obama.

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 2:22 PM

Takeaway: “[I]t’s a strong line.

Joe McCarthy had some pretty strong lines too.

How did that work out for him?

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 2:24 PM

Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.
- Schopenhauer

McCain is having a problem even finding the right target let alone hitting it. If his target acquisition does not improve he is in danger of blowing his own head off.

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 2:28 PM

When Obama feigns outrage over this, I hope McCain is quick to point out Obama had a working relationship with a couple who not only wanted America’s defeat in Vietnam, but actually, in essence, fought on their side as domestic terrorists. That doesn’t necessarily implicate Obama as wanting the same thing, but it does indicate that pining for defeat of our country isn’t a charge Obama considers too outrageous since he embraced people who he knows were doing it.

scotta on July 23, 2008 at 2:50 PM

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

Moving just 25% of the American troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan by 100%.

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 3:10 PM

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?

Klein’s feigning outrage because he’s a dishonorable coward who hoped we lose the war. Invested in defeat along with his liberal buddies, he’s probably also fairly surprised how things have gone lately, and mortified that Bush & McCain are getting credit for it. And now that we’ve won, he’s embarrassed, and scared that our victory might hurt his beloved Democrats in November.

Blacksheep on July 23, 2008 at 3:13 PM

Moving just 25% of the American troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan by 100%.

MB4, since you’re apparently a military genius, let me ask you this: specifically which brigades would you remove from Iraq, and from where? What would you do to fill the void left by the 25% withdrawal?

Blacksheep on July 23, 2008 at 3:16 PM

MB4, since you’re apparently a military genius, let me ask you this:

It doesn’t take a military genius to do simple math.

specifically which brigades would you remove from Iraq, and from where?

If it was within my power to order that some brigades be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan then I would direct the Pentagon to analyze the situation and come up with a list. That’s what they are there for.

what would you do to fill the void left by the 25% withdrawal?

Blacksheep on July 23, 2008 at 3:16 PM

If the “Surge” has been half as successful as advertised and if the IA and IP have been improving half as much as advertised, then there shouldn’t be much of a “void” now should there be. If the Iraqi’s can’t start filling a lot of the “void”, and Maliki seems to think that they can, then we are back to square one.

There is really nothing that complicated here.

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 3:36 PM

If it was within my power to order that some brigades be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan then I would direct the Pentagon to analyze the situation and come up with a list.

So, you have no idea which brigades are where, or which you would remove, or where they would come from. That’s what I thought.

There is really nothing that complicated here.

Again, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Brigade-level withdrawal is extremely complicated, and your comment only underscores your lack of familiarity of military operations.

How about this: we pick brigades at random, and then have everyone else spread out like a friggin’ NFL zone defense to make up for it!

Blacksheep on July 23, 2008 at 3:52 PM

How about this: we pick brigades at random, and then have everyone else spread out like a friggin’ NFL zone defense to make up for it!

Trying to defend against smugglers?

Random Numbers (Brian Epps) on July 23, 2008 at 4:46 PM

So, you have no idea which brigades are where, or which you would remove, or where they would come from.

So fracken what!

Is this suppose to be some kind of brilliant gotcha pop quiz on your part? Details like that are the job of those at the Pentagon. The Pentagon has a lot of staff. It is a very big place. Have you ever been there? Do you think they are just thousands of potted plants there? I guess so. Why on earth should I know the names and locations of all the brigades in Iraq? Do you think that George Bush or John McCain knows that?

That’s what I thought.

Your thinking is uncoordinated and off the mark entirely.

There is really nothing that complicated here.

Again, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Again, your attempt at a “gotcha” is extraneous and confused.

Brigade-level withdrawal is extremely complicated, and your comment only underscores your lack of familiarity of military operations.

There should be nothing complicated about those at the Pentagon coming up with a couple of brigades to move from Iraq to Afghanistan. During 1971 alone over 170,000 troops were withdrawn from RVN and all the way to the United States of America on the other side of the planet.

How about this: we pick brigades at random, and then have everyone else spread out like a friggin’ NFL zone defense to make up for it!

Blacksheep on July 23, 2008 at 3:52 PM

If you worked at the Pentagon you would be fired.

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 5:16 PM

BTW, 170,000 troops is the equivalent of a lot more than 2 or 3 brigades, as it is the equivalent of somewhere around 40 to 50 brigades.

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 5:22 PM

And that is just using Vietnam as a comparison, not WWII.

If the Pentagon can’t more 2 or 3 brigades from Iraq to Afghanistan (they of course can) then we would need a new Pentagon.

And you “Blacksheep” need to get a new song and dance.

MB4 on July 23, 2008 at 5:25 PM

Memo to Joe Klein:

Some times it’s best to just remain “Anonymous.”

viking01 on July 23, 2008 at 8:38 PM

If it was within my power to order that some brigades be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan then I would direct the Pentagon to analyze the situation and come up with a list. That’s what they are there for.

Did you ever stop to think they’ve already analyzed the situation and are not moving brigades from Iraq to Afghanistan because it isn’t feasible?

venividivici on July 23, 2008 at 9:37 PM

Amazing that the war went immediately from unwinnable to unlosable.

Clark1 on July 24, 2008 at 12:23 AM

I wrote on the Huffington Post how McCain is right for saying Obama would rather lose a war than to lose a political campaign was absolutely correct, and how the left has been heavily invested in American defeat and withdrawl. Mentioned also how everytime they say we went into a country that didn’t attack us was as stupid as one could get. Bush merely put teeth into U.N. resolution 1441, after giving Saddam 6 months to comply. Naturally, the modern day Pravda moderators never let my post see the light of day. Talk about brainwashing……….

adamsmith on July 24, 2008 at 10:22 AM