McCain Before: 100 Years; McCain Now: Whatever

McCain has wised up. When asked when troops could come home from Iraq by Matt Lauer on the Today Show, McCain elected not to say “100 years” or “a thousand years.” Instead he said, “that’s not too important.” Here’s the video, with the context of his statement in full:

McCain’s statement is both callous and out of touch: the troops certainly want to know if the war they are fighting will be over at some point, and the American people overwhelmingly want the troops home within the next two years. There is a hunger, I think, to know that are some point this failed adventure in the Middle East will be behind us and America can reset its priorities.

But the more important point is this one: “that’s not too important” is equivalent to saying we should have troops in Iraq for “100 years.” This isn’t a flub. It’s McCain’s vision for the Middle East. He thinks we can have a long term presence in Iraq — bases, troops, jets — the way we do in South Korea and Japan. As long as casualties are down, we can have troops there for 100 years, 1,000 years, or 1,000,000 years. It’s just “not too important.”

But this is a misreading of the Middle East so fundamental that one is surprised a self-proclaimed national security expert like John McCain doesn’t recognize it. Osama bin Laden has said that one of the main reasons he declared war on the United States is because it has bases on Muslim soil; in fact, Saudi Arabia became a target for terrorism because of the royal family’s friendly relationship with our country. All 100 years in Iraq is going to mean is 100 years of turmoil that denies the people of Iraq the chances to regain normalcy in their lives.

And moreover, a long term presence in Iraq inhibits our ability to suppress the Taliban in Afghanistan, to defeat extremists in the war on terror, and to invest our tax money in important priorities here at home.