In this morning’s (7/22) Philly Inquirer, op-ed columnist Dick Polman contends that John McCain has three options for ways to respond to Iraq’s announcement that its government essentially supports Barack Obama’s withdrawal policy. Polman argues that McCain can: (1) reverse his 2004 statement that the US should withdraw if the Iraqi government tells us to; (2) soften his critiques of Obama’s position; or (3) ignore the fact that Iraq has rejected his stance, and ignore the fallout from that rejection, hoping that US voters will simply forget about it.
Polman leaves out a fourth option, which is the one that the Bush administration is already attempting. The administration’s response to Maliki’s announcement last week was to accuse him of playing politics with the US election, of supporting Obama for some nebulous reasons of their own.
There are two problems with this position. First, it’s nonsense. The Iraqi government has been calling, more or less stridently, for US withdrawal since before Barack Obama was on anybody’s radar as a serious candidate. That is, Maliki’s statement last week isn’t anything new, and therefore is unlikely to based on Obama’s winning the Democratic nomination. Second, and I think more significant, it strikes me as fundamentally two-faced for the Bush administration to have touted the importance and progress of an independent Iraqi government, and then to turn on it when it takes a position the administration doesn’t like. Or more succinctly, it smacks of being mad at the puppet when the puppet takes on a voice of its own.
McCain has built his candidacy on the grounds that he is a stronger military and foreign policy strategist. In order for that argument to carry any weight with regard to Iraq, it would seem that he’d also have to say he’s a stronger leader than Maliki, which is a strange claim to make in reference to a leader that was elected democratically (at least ostensibly). It smacks of the very same kind of imperial thinking that got us into Iraq in the first place: we know better than you do what’s best for you, and even when you become what we said we were creating, you’re still wrong if you don’t do what we say.
Either Iraq’s government is a government or it isn’t. It either makes decisions on behalf of its own country or it doesn’t. It’s totally out of line for the Bush administration, and/or McCain, to proclaim that the Iraqi government isn’t qualified to understand its own country, conditions on the ground, and agenda better than we do. If they don’t trust the Iraqi government any more than they apparently do, then why did they work so damn hard to install it in the first place?
Dr. Frankenstein? Is that you?