Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona is a war hero, former engineer of the Straight Talk Express and the man taken out of a bitter presidential race in 2000 by the eventual winner of the Republican nomination, President George W. Bush. Then, in 2008, with the nomination his, McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, went down to defeat at the hands of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
Ever since, McCains been in the front of whatever anti-Obama bandwagon has been rolling by, and the presidents dilemma over what to do about Iraq is no different. Obama this week announced hed send roughly 300 military advisers in to help stem the insurgency which appears on the verge of leading to a never-ending civil war.
It seems a prudent and appropriately conservative move. The American people saw over 4,000 troops killed in a prolonged conflict after President Bush invaded Iraq based on bad intelligence that dictator Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction he was planning to use on the United States. That fanciful notion was hammered again and again by Bush and by his vice president and War Advocate in Chief, Dick Cheney.
But now, Cheney and McCain are on that bandwagon, with Cheney writing critical pieces about the presidents policies but offering little in terms of solutions. No wonder. Through the bloody years in Iraq, Cheney was wrong time and time again. His foreign policy track record doesnt give him much credibility as a critic.
As for McCain, who in his criticism seems to stop short of advocating deployment of large numbers of American forces, he at one point wanted the presidents entire national security team to resign. Obama has been criticized for American troop withdrawals, though that plan was devised under Bush, and the Iraqi government rejected the idea of U.S. forces staying on.
Republican critics seem to be trying to ignore the origins of the Iraqi war, which is perhaps not surprising since public opinion polls have shown a steady decline in support for the war, with the public now overwhelmingly opposed to it after initially supporting it.
Yes, its true that President Obama is now the owner of the task at hand, which is to try to encourage stability in the country and the region without getting America embroiled again.
The president rightly says, "We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq. Ultimately, this is something that is going to have to be solved by Iraqis."
McCain and other critics have advocated air strikes. They say the president has mismanaged the disintegration of Iraq into battles among angry factions with historic grudges. But they offer few strategic outcomes of their own. Obama obviously would do well to seek bipartisan ideas about strategy, including ideas from McCain. But if the critics want to be viewed as constructive, they need to do more than offer random criticism without backing it up with practical ideas.