Language tends to get out of bounds and over-heated, especially when presidential candidates talk about the war in Iraq. A case in point is Republican candidate John McCain, who uses patronizing, self-righteous language as he asserts that he's the one who is best equipped to fight "radical Islamic extremism."
He claims Islamic Fundamentalist terrorism is the "transcendental challenge of the 21st century." Well, ok yes,nobody argues that terrorism is a grave challenge.
But the point at which there seems to be an open question with McCain's assertion is the highly debatable nature of his premise that Islamic extremism trumps other problems we face: i.e., whether the threat of terrorism surpasses other problems that are dangerous to our national security, such as neglect of infrastructure and social problems, economic weakness, crime, drug abuse, disease prevention or a host of other evils we may potentially face.
Under George W. Bush, Republicans have had eight years to make their case for 'terrorism' being their number one issue as the most serious threat to humanity. And for the most part, they've failed miserably both at making that case and at dealing with it successfully.
Mr. McCain - and other Republican candidates except for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas - is comfortable with saying, simplistically, that Democrats are "defeatists" in Iraq, while, of course he implies quite openly that the others who are of his opinion are "on the side of victory."
Mr. McCain quite obviously is taking a cue from Karl Rove's playbook, as he pushes more fear. It's quickly becoming one of the mainstay planks in his campaign platform. In it, McCain insults Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for what he claims is their advocacy of defeat (he hasn't defined what that is, exactly, except to equate it with quick withdrawal). He uses the catch phrase "waving the white flag of surrender" and he with it he implies that the Democratic candidates, by pledging to leave Iraq, would presume to do so supposedly hastily, irresponstibly, without honor and in fact just downright fleeing like a bunch of cowards.
Besides being scurrilous in his smear of political opponents' patriotism and motives, it would seem, that McCain's accusation, if logically extrapolated, could be also applied to a majority of Americans, who would seem also to fall into this straw man category that conservatives fondly call "surrender monkeys". His calumny of Democrats would seem to apply to the American public as a whole, in light of the continued low opinion poll ratings that frequently surface regarding the War.
So, the next logical question is: how, exactly, does McCain define "victory"? Let's hear his practical application of that term in terms of what his policy will mean if he's elected president.What precisely are Mr. McCain's parameters for knowing that we've achieved victory? And just when is it likely to be achieved? President Bush, McCain and other defenders of the war may say they define "victory" as the point at which Iraq is a self-sufficient state which, under a popularly elected government, can defend its borders and keep order within.
Yet that is despite our best efforts, whereby since 2003 we've seen that such a "victory" in Iraq remain elusive, and in fact, for all intents and purposes, still a distant pipe dream, in spite of the much-touted, apparent lessening of everyday violence in Iraq at least for the time being. Given the continuation of daily instability and incidents of violence, just when does Mr. McCain think he will achieve sufficient stabilization and self-rule? Does "victory" happen in a year, in 20 years or in the 100 years that Mr. McCain says American troops might have to stay in Iraq to guarantee order, whether the American people like it or not? As he states it, voters just have to take it on faith that he, the great white father, John McCain, knows better than we, the childish American people, as to when it is honorable enough and patriotic enough to end the war..
It is not reassuring when we hear defenders of no-end-in-sight occupation forces of U.S. troops tell us this. After all, we've seen the open-ended stays of the American military in Europe, South Korea, the Balkans and God knows where else. How many such imperial missions can we afford when our country is headed for economic freefall into bankruptcy? Is the Iraq occupation worth the investment of possibly trillions more dollars beyond those already spent using borrowed money? Can we afford the continued weakening of our economy, beating down of our armed forces and the collapse of our creditworthiness as well as international reputation? Will this continue to be a credit-card war that irresponsibly drives up our debt for future generations to pay, while we beg loans from China?
Those who too easily call for "victory" as the goal owe voters an answer other than "father knows best' . If our economic position continues to deteriorate, as seems likely for the foreseeable future, it may well even come to a repeat of our Vietnam-style-face-saving withdrawal, wherein a Republican administration, in the 1970s, was forced to 'cut and run' when the South Vietnamese government we supported was overrun by the 'Vietcong' and the North Vietnamese.
Will we wait for another "mission accomplished" pause in Iraq's internal strife, and then quickly declare "victory" and back out, no matter what the Baghdad government's ability to stand unaided? The collapse of our economy may well force us to that, whether McCain sneers at opponents about 'surrender' or not. If that's what these undefined-victory-at-any- price, die hard, nation-banktupting war-adherents like McCain have in mind, then in the end, their accusation of "waving the white flag of surrender" amounts to nothing more than a cheap political trick to use the old George W. Bush fear card to try and win an election..