Tuesday, March 18, 2008

They Knew All the Tricks, Dramatic Irony, Metaphor, Bathos, Puns, Parody, Litotes and...Satire. They Were Vicious.

I have been complaining of late about the disturbing level of ignorance revealed in certain statements made by Senator McCain regarding the goals, composition and strategy of al-Qaeda (a shortcoming brought into stark relief by McCain's self-touted foreign policy expertise). True to form, the presumptive GOP nominee is giving little cause to alter this assessment. Actually, he's only reinforcing the judgment. Matt Yglesias caught this head scratcher (and that's putting it mildly) from a CNN interview yesterday in which McCain sets forth the supposed results of a measured withdrawal from Iraq over the course of 16 months to 2 years (as proposed by Clinton and Obama):

So I just think what [measured withdrawal] means is al Qaeda wins. They tell the world that...And their dedication is to follow us home.

Matt skewers as appropriate:

[T]o portray what the U.S. military is doing in Iraq as primarily a matter of fighting al-Qaeda is breathtakingly dishonest. At least I hope it's dishonest, because if McCain is really that clueless about what's happening, then we're in more trouble than I thought.

Actually Matt, you might be on to something regarding the dishonest vs. clueless question (a question I posited myself recently). More on that below, but first Matt is still at it:

Meanwhile, this business about al-Qaeda following us home from Iraq is ludicrous. The American deployment in Iraq isn't a physical barrier preventing people from coming to the United States. Obviously, preventing would-be terrorists from getting into the country is an important priority, but sending 160,000 soldiers to Iraq doesn't accomplish that.

Um, yeah. Adding: Iraqi militants will be staying in Iraq to contest for control of the country's future, which is their primary concern (that, and fighting for the expulsion of US forces - which would not require following anyone anywhere, other than to the exits). Similarly, foreign elements streaming in from Saudi Arabia and the Maghreb (many of which are identified as "al-Qaeda in Iraq"), will have lost much of their motivation to fulfill the duty of confronting foreign armies on Muslim lands when those invading armies have departed.

Now, al-Qaeda Central (the group hunkered down in the Afghan/Pakistani tribal areas) will still be intent on attacking us at "home," but invading Iraq never changed that, nor would prolonging the occupation, even for a 100 years. Back to Matt, who's making my life easy today:

Meanwhile, as John Brennan told me a few weeks ago, McCain "says that al-Qaeda has said it will be a defeat if we leave, I think it is most inappropriate to concede to al-Qaeda the ability to define what constitutes success." After all, "al-Qaeda's strategy has been to bleed the U.S. into bankruptcy and to continue with the same approach will have severe consequences for U.S. national security."...To reason, as McCain does, that because al-Qaeda will boast if we leave Iraq that we therefore most make an unlimited commitment to indefinite warfare there is crazy; we'd be letting a small group of fanatics pin down a huge swathe of the American military with nothing more than the threat to release a gloating videotape.

That all depends. Will al-Qaeda use...satire? I mean, regular gloating is pretty potent, but boasting with bathos may prove an existential threat.

Snark aside, in conceding that withdrawal equals victory for al-Qaeda, McCain simultaneously bolsters that group's prestige beyond correlation to actual events (how does this serve al-Qaeda's grand designs when bleeding us dry by prolonging the occupation is preferential?) and artificially amplifies al-Qaeda's efficacy (it wasn't al-Qaeda that rendered this invasion unwinnable, they have been but a small factor). Further, actual terrorism experts point out that this type of glorification of al-Qaeda engaged in by McCain is singularly counterproductive in that it encourages would-be terrorists to enlist in a romanticized movement that is portrayed as "epic" by those that should expose it for its smallness.

Continuing its tour, McCain's Jaw Drop Express pulled into Amman, Jordan today where the Senator from Arizona proceeded to lecture the locals on al-Qaeda and its allies in the region:

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives “taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.”

Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.” A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate’s ear. McCain then said: “I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.”

The mistake threatened to undermine McCain's argument that his decades of foreign policy experience make him the natural choice to lead a country at war with terrorists. In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night.

That one sure seems to militate in favor of "clueless" on the clueless-dishonest spectrum. Of course, that's a lose-lose proposition now isn't it.

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