The key bit from her segment on “Hannity” last night criticizing O’s ISIS speech. She and Maverick are destined to forever speak warmly of each other because of their ’08 union but it’ll never stop being weird watching one of the tea party’s favorite pols salute one of its least favorite and vice versa. It’s like watching Ted Cruz get wistful at the thought of a Mitch McConnell presidency. If McCain had opted for Romney or even Joe Lieberman on the ticket six years ago, there’s no doubt he’d be sneering today that Palin’s a “wacko bird” while she’d be needling him every week for being king of the pro-amnesty establishment RINOs. And yet here we are.
She’s right about Iraq, though. There’s no doubt that had McCain won in 2008, some sort of residual force of U.S. ground troops would have stayed put there through 2012. That would have given ISIS second thoughts about making its move into Anbar province; it might also have forced Maliki to compromise politically, which would have made the Sunni parts of the country less hospitable to the jihadis. Then again, that assumes all other variables in Iraq would have held steady during McCain’s first term despite his famous propensity for intervening all over the Middle East and beyond. For instance, if President Maverick had jumped into Syria early by trying to arm the Syrian “moderates,” what would that have done to Iraq? Maybe a robust “moderate” force would have beaten back ISIS before it had a foothold — or maybe the “moderates” would have switched sides, helping ISIS gain Syrian territory more quickly than it otherwise did. Would McCain have started bombing Syria at that point? If so, er, which side of the conflict would he have been bombing? Both?
Also, what would have happened in Iraq if President Mav had chosen to bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran‘s nuclear program circa 2010? Iran would have ordered reprisals against U.S. troops in Iraq; our influence over Maliki, the Shiite proxy, might have crumbled. At that point, we’d be at war with Iran’s Shiite militias in Iraq on the one hand and possibly at war with … someone in Syria, maybe Assad, maybe Sunni jihadis like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, maybe both. Is that a better or worse problem than ISIS presents now? Unlike Obama’s strategy, it would have placed us mainly on the side of the region’s Sunnis, not the Shiites, which at least would have made our allies in Jordan and Saudi Arabia happy. But then, if your main focus is on stopping the Shiites, how eager would you really be to stop Sunni jihadi outfits like ISIS? They’re fighting your battle in Syria for you by killing Assad’s troops. Would President McCain really have wanted to hit ISIS while he was consumed with Iran?
Long story short, there are never good outcomes in the Middle East. President McCain might have been less bad but it’s hard to believe he, or anyone, would have been good. And of course, McCain’s super-hawkishness carries its own risks. Exit question: How would commander-in-chief Maverick have reacted to Putin making a move on Crimea? You could argue, of course, that Putin wouldn’t have made that move with McCain in office. It’s Obama’s weakness, especially his weakness in enforcing his WMD “red line” in Syria last year, that convinced Putin he could get away with bullying Ukraine. McCain wouldn’t have made that mistake. But that assumes too much, I think: Maybe Putin, needing a cause for Russians to rally around, would have calculated that McCain had his hands full with too many other international crises to challenge him in Ukraine. So Putin grabs Crimea and then McCain does — what? Imposes sanctions? Demands that Ukraine be admitted to NATO? Deploys U.S. carriers? Cuban Missile Crisis II? Lot of unknowns here.