« Woman Calls 911 To Report Drunk Driver: Herself | Main | Flyin' Wing-Suit »
January 29, 2008

Robert Kagan on Romney's Non-Support of the Surge

A bit of tealeaf reading here, but honestly, it is my own gauzy recollection based on such things that Romney wasn't leaning very far forward on the surge.

It is true, as you write, that “Romney wasn't as enthusiastic about [the surge] and in his body language, if nothing else seemed ready to distance himself from it if it failed.” But he went further than that. In June 2007, when there were already good signs that the surge was working, Romney told an interviewer, “I think we would hope to turn Iraq security over to their own military and their own security forces, and if presence in the region is important for us than we have other options that are nearby." (This is quoted by Dobbs in the Post) That may seem innocuous enough now. But you remember how thinsg were at the time. That was the way both Democrats and Republican supporters of withdrawal described their plan in those days. The idea was to pull U.S. troops out of the fighting in Iraq, hand over the fight to the Iraqis, and station U.S. forces “nearby” or “over the horizon.” That was how advisers to Hillary Clinton described their preferred option. It was how people who supported the Baker-Hamilton commission report described their ideal option. They didn’t call for immediate and total abandonment of Iraq — and very few do so today. When people who favored withdrawal explained their plan, it was as Romney described it. The fact that he also talked about “timetables” in an earlier interview, albeit secret “timetables,” also puts him in what was then the withdrawal camp.

Everyone who was fighting for the surge in the early months of last year — and that was not a very large number of people back then—was desperately looking around Republican ranks for support. Most Republicans on the Hill were quiet. Most conservative commentators were not working up any enthusiasm, to say the least. And aside from McCain, the leading Republican presidential candidates at the time were being careful. It was clear that both Giuliani and Romney were tempted to let McCain take the issue and self-immolate. But of the two, I remember, Rudy was the one who decided to put himself most clearly on the side of the surge. He began speaking out on the need for more troops in his public appearances. The contrast with Romney is even more striking in this regard. As best I can recall, Giuliani never talked about timetables, withdrawal, or about stationing forces “nearby.” Among the three leading candidates, only Romney took that line.

First of all, it should be remembered that McCain himself did a lot of political positioning on the war. He's fond of saying that he had the guts to challenge Rumsfeld when the war wasn't being won. That's partly true. It's also partly true that McCain found this position -- criticizing the execution of the war -- to be politically helpful, as he it afforded him the opportunity to distance himself from it while attacking Bush, supposedly, from the right.

Secondly, McCain himself was open to the idea of "timetables" and "benchmarks" and spoke in favor of them. Kagan's summary leaves out some important context: the public had turned against the war by this point and even those who firmly supported the goal of victory in Iraq found it necessary -- as McCain did -- to offer up appeasements to anti-war sentiment, to reassure the public that we were not, in fact, necessarily staying "forever," as the Democrats had it.

McCain did that too. So did Bush. "Benchmarks" and "timetables" -- of the goal sort, not the date-certain type -- became for many pro-war politicians the soft soap offered to a public tiring of war in order to keep the goal of victory alive.

In this context, Romney was deferring to conventional political wisdom on the point. He wasn't being a leader for the war effort, true enough. But neither was he being a leader against the war.

I'm not sure I can tell the difference between McCain's and Bush's soft, grudging support for benchmarks and unenforceable timetables and Romney's blessing of the same. They appear fairly similar.


I also don't see how Romney' statement about ultimately turning over Iraq to the Iraqis is somehow damning. That is everybody's goal, including Bush, McCain, and even the oil-vampire Dick Cheney. Kagan reads into this some code for withdrawal; I don't. He's expressing simply the hope of an end of the US involvement in the war, which everyone does, from left to right, from dove to hawk. Kagan reads into this a wish to withdraw no matter what the consequences; but the fact he can't find a quote that better aids him suggests there is none to be found.

The rest is up to "body language," the feeling, based on how passionately he spoke on the issue, that Romney meant more than this while Bush and McCain meant less. Having sometimes gotten that feeling myself based on "body language" and passion, I can't say that's an absurd inference. But it is, ultimately, just a sense.

In the "context" Kagan discusses, he seems to forget that even pro-war supporters were scrambling to meet the demands for immediate withdrawal with some reassurances to the public that would blunt the then-perceived stampede for the exits. He seizes upon ambiguous words of Romney to claim that Romney, unlike McCain, was in the bug-out camp whereas McCain's not-terribly-dissimilar statements were proof of his unwavering commitment to the war. That's a very big distinction to make upon such weak evidence.

Thanks to CJ.


digg this
posted by Ace at 02:37 PM

| Access Comments




Recent Comments
mustbequantum: "Garp is the most insufferable book of all time. Po ..."

Ignoramus: ""The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most insuffe ..."

CharlieBrown'sDildo: "You talking about me?[i]Posted by: Weasel at Octob ..."

runner: "Strategic vs. Humanitarian, don't know what to say ..."

votermom pimping great books!: "There's a book called Left of Boom that is tge mem ..."

Weasel: " Absolutely. He is an ass. Posted by: CharlieBr ..."

CharlieBrown'sDildo: "Garp is the most insufferable book of all time.[i] ..."

Skandia Recluse: "RE: Herbert 'passing off' his Dune as an original ..."

San Franpsycho: "I didn't say they were good, only that they were h ..."

Boulder terlit hobo: "dude. dude. that Dune was an allegory and a warnin ..."

Bertram Cabot, Jr.: " [i]L Ron Hubbard's Dianetics[/i] ...makes you ..."

All Hail Eris, She-Wolf of the 'Ettes 'Ettes: "I pulled up the Tucker Carlson/Max Boot pimp slap ..."

Recent Entries
Search


MuNuvians
Polls! Polls! Polls!
Frequently Asked Questions
The (Almost) Complete Paul Anka Integrity Kick
Top Top Tens
Greatest Hitjobs

The Ace of Spades HQ Sex-for-Money Skankathon
A D&D Guide to the Democratic Candidates
Margaret Cho: Just Not Funny
More Margaret Cho Abuse
Margaret Cho: Still Not Funny
Iraqi Prisoner Claims He Was Raped... By Woman
Wonkette Announces "Morning Zoo" Format
John Kerry's "Plan" Causes Surrender of Moqtada al-Sadr's Militia
World Muslim Leaders Apologize for Nick Berg's Beheading
Michael Moore Goes on Lunchtime Manhattan Death-Spree
Milestone: Oliver Willis Posts 400th "Fake News Article" Referencing Britney Spears
Liberal Economists Rue a "New Decade of Greed"
Artificial Insouciance: Maureen Dowd's Word Processor Revolts Against Her Numbing Imbecility
Intelligence Officials Eye Blogs for Tips
They Done Found Us Out, Cletus: Intrepid Internet Detective Figures Out Our Master Plan
Shock: Josh Marshall Almost Mentions Sarin Discovery in Iraq
Leather-Clad Biker Freaks Terrorize Australian Town
When Clinton Was President, Torture Was Cool
What Wonkette Means When She Explains What Tina Brown Means
Wonkette's Stand-Up Act
Wankette HQ Gay-Rumors Du Jour
Here's What's Bugging Me: Goose and Slider
My Own Micah Wright Style Confession of Dishonesty
Outraged "Conservatives" React to the FMA
An On-Line Impression of Dennis Miller Having Sex with a Kodiak Bear
The Story the Rightwing Media Refuses to Report!
Our Lunch with David "Glengarry Glen Ross" Mamet
The House of Love: Paul Krugman
A Michael Moore Mystery (TM)
The Dowd-O-Matic!
Liberal Consistency and Other Myths
Kepler's Laws of Liberal Media Bias
John Kerry-- The Splunge! Candidate
"Divisive" Politics & "Attacks on Patriotism" (very long)
The Donkey ("The Raven" parody)
News/Chat
Archives
Powered by
Movable Type 2.64