Monday, July 07, 2008

McCain's "lessons of Vietnam"

Joe Conason asks the question that the courtier Establishment press doesn't much want to bother with: just what are the lesson John "100 Years War" McCain took from the Vietnam War? (What John McCain didn't learn in Vietnam Salon 07/04/08). He writes:

The most pertinent issue is not what McCain did or didn't do during the war in Vietnam, but what he learned from that searing, incredibly bloody and wholly unnecessary failure of U.S. policy. Clearly he learned that torture is morally wrong, illegal and counterproductive, and he has spoken with great moral authority on that issue. But listening to him now and over the past decade or so, he also seems not to have learned why that war itself was a tragic mistake - and why we needed to leave Vietnam long before we did.
Conason may be a tad generous to McCain on the torture issue. As a responsible adult, he certainly knows torture is wrong. But despite his posturing in the Senate, he supports Bush's torture policy. And he will almost certainly continue it if he's elected President.

Conason focuses on what McCain seems to have learned from the Vietnam War. He has to do quite a bit of educated guessing in the process.

Because the press courtiers are too busy laughing at his jokes on the campaign bus to dig into boring policy matters like this:

Indeed, what is most striking about McCain's attitude toward Vietnam is his insistence that we could have won - that we should have won - with more bombs and more casualties. In 1998, he spoke on the 30th anniversary of the Tet Offensive. "Like a lot of Vietnam veterans, I believed and still believe that the war was winnable," he said. "I do not believe that it was winnable at an acceptable cost in the short or probably even the long term using the strategy of attrition which we employed there to such tragic results. I do believe that had we taken the war to the North and made full, consistent use of air power in the North, we ultimately would have prevailed." Five years later, he said much the same thing to the Council on Foreign Relations. "We lost in Vietnam because we lost the will to fight, because we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting, and because we limited the tools at our disposal."

Very few military historians agree with McCain's bitter analysis, which suggests that a ground invasion and an even more destructive bombing campaign, with an unimaginable cost in human life, would have achieved an American victory. (my emphasis)
McCain's comments on the Iraq War have been incredibly light on what he would actually do militarily to achieve that magical result of having no Iraqis attacking American troops, which would allow us to leave the troops there for 100 years, or 1,000, or 10,000, depending on which McCain statement you want to pick.

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