Friday, September 26, 2008

First Obama-McCain debate

I wasn't able to watch the Presidential debate live. I'm glad McCain gathered up his nerve and decided to appear.

From the news reports, it sounds like Obama was able to draw a sharp contrast between his opposition to the Iraq War and McCain's support of it. McCain's position on the Iraq War really is a "maverick" one in terms of public opinion. But his "maverick" reputation was based on his alleged willingness to take unpopular stands within the Republican Party. And the war is still popular among Republicans.

The collapse of the private financial system, which the Establishment euphemistically refers to as the "crisis on Wall Street", has certainly dramatized the magnitude of the failure of Republican "predator state" economics, as James Galbraith calls the current administration's approach in his latest book of that title. Anyone who believes McCain's claims that he will restrain the culture of greed in the financial world is wanting to be bamboozled.

I know he's not likely to change his position before the election, but I'm still dismayed to see Obama repeatedly call for escalating the Afghanistan War, as he did again on Friday in the debate. I have no doubt that Obama would be a more responsible foreign policy leader than McCain, though it's a great relief to know that the White Princess Palin has been sturdily defending American air space against the Rooskies. But escalating the war in Afghanistan and continuing to expand it to Pakistan is a recipe for another disaster. And the situation in Iraq remains a disaster.

Tom Hayden in a pre-debate piece, How to Think About the First Debate Huffington Post 09/24/08, has this to say about the Afghanistan War:

We should not leap from the simmering quagmire in Iraq to the hot ones of Afghanistan and Pakistan without a clear plan for peace. The deployment of any American advisers or combat troops to those countries, if at all justified, should be as temporary holding actions and consistent with respecting their sovereign rights. Our only legitimate goal is to deter al-Qaeda from planning attacks on America from sanctuaries in Pakistan, but that goal cannot be pursued in isolation, if Pakistan's people see us as foreign invaders, if civilian casualties continue to mount, and if terrorism spreads across Pakistan in response to our forays into the tribal highlands. [my emphasis]
American foreign policy and military strategists need to get over the notion that something like unconditional surrender (to the United States, of course) is the only legitimate outcome of a war. US involvement in protracted war, especially in situations like Iraq and even more so in Afghanistan where there is no strong and reasonably reliable partner government, is itself a big problem. Putting a time limit on direct US military involvement in both those cases now is more likely to produce a result beneficial to the US than continuing to fight their indefinitely. And the latter is McCain's plan for Iraq, so far as we can make it out, and is the plan of both McCain and Obama for Afghanistan. But escalating in Afghanistan is a bad, bad idea.

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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