Favorite

The peace candidates 

For one shining moment last week, John McCain and Barack Obama had precisely the same position on the Iraq war: They expected to get U. S. combat forces out within 16 months of taking office.

Ought we be hopeful that the country will have two peace candidates?

“A pretty good timetable,” McCain called it, though he would later insist, wrongly, that he had never used the word “timetable” and that anyway he had not intended to be so definite.

They were matched on the nuances, too. McCain had added a proviso to the withdrawal timetable, that “they have to be based on conditions on the ground.” That was essentially what Sen. Obama said on Nov. 17, 2007, when he described the general timetable for withdrawal, which he said depended on the Bush administration drawing down forces to about 100,000 when he leaves office (that looks about right), continuing improvement in Iraqi security forces (that is happening) and adjusted troop withdrawals of one or two brigades a month “based on advice from the military officers in the field.”

It requires some fine parsing to find any daylight between the positions of the men on peace in Iraq on that day, or at least at that moment. McCain was being interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who asked him about the Iraqi government's enthusiastic endorsement of Obama's timetable.

McCain tried to take it all back later when it was pointed out that he was embracing the same idea that he had been describing as traitorous. He said Obama's plan amounted to putting his own election ahead of the safety of the country.

If it does not represent his real thinking, one of three things occurred: It was another unthinking blunder by a perpetually weary man, like his mention last week of the “Iraq-Pakistan border” (it doesn't exist), his mistaken linking of Iran and al Qaeda, his attribution of the co-option of Sunni tribes in the battle against al Qaeda to the surge (it preceded the surge), or his mention last week of “President” (rather than Prime Minister) Putin. He may have been caught off guard and could find no way to dispute the Iraqi prime minister and his government since he had said that the United States should leave if the Iraq government wanted it to. President Bush had undermined him only two days earlier by describing how the country ought to leave Iraq according to a “time horizon.”

Third, he may have simply got ahead of himself.

It could be any of those, but I think it's the third. He would reach that position over time, by imperceptible stages, before the election, like Richard Nixon's campaign promise in 1968 to bring honorable peace in Vietnam quickly after his election. McCain just did not have the finesse to pull it off. That, of course, may give him too much credit.

But it is a matter of history. When the United States is embroiled in an unpopular war the men who get elected are the ones who say they will end the war and the ones who say they will not go to war. Iraq is the most unpopular war in at least a century.

George W. Bush promised in 2000 never to use U. S. forces for nation building. Nixon promised to end the Vietnam War within six months of taking office. Dwight Eisenhower opposed the Korean War and promised in 1952 to “go to Korea” if he was elected and bring the war to an early end. Franklin D. Roosevelt promised in 1940 to keep the United States out of World War II. Woodrow Wilson promised to keep the United States out of World War I. William McKinley, or at least his party, promised to end the Philippine-American War within 60 days of his re-election in 1900. It was critical to the election of every one of them.

Only Eisenhower may be said to have kept his promise, although American troops are still there 55 years later. He did reach a quick armistice with the communists.

The record of war promises is not heartening, but the record of American voters is. McCain is running now on a single issue, standing tall on war, because he has compromised almost every other question, foreign and domestic, on which he has ever staked a position. Unless a substantial quotient of voters finds it impossible to vote for a black man, which none of us should rule out, a candidate who favors endless war cannot be elected. Not a war that has despoiled the country's values, undermined its economy, fouled its honor among nations and made the world more dangerous.

The old bullheaded John McCain seemed an unlikely man to make such a drastic pivot as to become an apostle of peace. But if he was willing to change on everything else why not the one thing that might win the election? The big question, as with Dick Nixon, would be if he meant it.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Tax tales

    The easiest task in the world may be to persuade people that they are paying higher taxes than folks in other communities, states and countries, but there is never a shortage of people taking on the task.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • Stifling dissent

    Whenever Donald Trump in his serial bouts with failure decides he must re-energize his base of white nationalists by doing things like demonizing black athletes who protest discrimination, the mainstream press falls for it and gives him maximum space and time. We're addicted.
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • Dollars and degrees

    Governor Hutchinson says a high graduation rate (ours is about the lowest) and a larger quotient of college graduates in the population are critical to economic development. Every few months there is another, but old, key to unlocking growth.
    • Aug 25, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Tax tales

    The easiest task in the world may be to persuade people that they are paying higher taxes than folks in other communities, states and countries, but there is never a shortage of people taking on the task.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • Stifling dissent

    Whenever Donald Trump in his serial bouts with failure decides he must re-energize his base of white nationalists by doing things like demonizing black athletes who protest discrimination, the mainstream press falls for it and gives him maximum space and time. We're addicted.
    • Sep 28, 2017
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Cotton to CIA?

    Political junkies without a real election to overanalyze fill the void with "what if?" scenarios. With the State Fair underway, consider this column a helping of cotton candy for such readers.
  • The casting couch

    Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching — always in social situations — but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks, hinting that being a "hunk" was how I'd got hired.
  • Caution: government at work

    I have several government targets this week.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The casting couch

    • Freedom from fear is a human right.

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • I think Cotton's nature will always be pro war, pro guns, increased defense budget, unrestricted…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • Whether he remains in the US Senate or becomes the head of the CIA, there…

    • on October 18, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation