My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


What Makes You Think John McCain Would Win The War On Terror? 

I know this is heresy--John McCain is a war hero, and his qualifications to be Commander -In-Chief are "unimpeachable." All of the disputes conservatives have with him are supposed to be on the domestic/social side of the ledger, but his qualifications on the war are unquestioned.


What spawned this thought is the interview Hugh conducted yesterday with Bruce Hirschensohn. I was able to --through inductive reasoning (shyeeah!)--distill that that BH, like many conservatives, has made his choice for who to endorse (John McCain) based solely on the basis of who is best suited to be Commander-In-Chief during the next years of the Global War On Terror. And that's fine--I don't mind anybody making that the deciding factor in their decision.

But I found myself wanting to yell at the car stereo "What makes you think John McCain will win this war!?!?"

Let's look at those specific qualifications. Sure, let's hand it to McCain: he stood up for the "surge" strategy when it looked like all around him would fold on it, and made it okay for Republicans to get behind the President on this one strategic shift to save the war.

But let's look at the bigger picture in the GWOT outside of Iraq.

What is our greatest need with regard to winning the GWOT? I would submit to you that our greatest tool/weapon/need is intelligence. I know, that's not exactly a bold or unique thought, but it HAS to be the starting point of any serious discussion of winning.

How has John McCain been on intelligence?

What's our greatest asset in gaining intel? Obviously, interviews with captured terrorists have to be near the top of the list of central sources of information. And John McCain has made it quite clear that getting intel from "aggressive" interviews is something that he's not interested in.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) named three measures that he said would no longer be allowed under a provision barring techniques that cause serious mental or physical suffering by U.S. detainees: extreme sleep deprivation, forced hypothermia and "waterboarding," which simulates drowning. He also said other "extreme measures" would be banned. . . .

"It's clear we have to have the high moral ground," said McCain, a former POW tortured by prison guards in Vietnam, on CBS's "Face the Nation." "I am confident that some of the abuses that were reportedly committed in the past will be prohibited in the future."

This, in spite of the fact recently revealed, that waterboarding has worked:

It was the interrogation of Zubaydah, the first high-value detainee taken by the CIA in 2002, that led us to 9/11 accomplice Ramzi Binalshibh. Interrogations of both terrorists then led us to Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, leader of the team that captured Zubaydah, said waterboarding broke the jihadist in about 35 seconds. Use of the technique gained information that probably disrupted "dozens" of planned al-Qaida attacks, saving countless lives, Kiriakou says.

According to reports, waterboarding has only been used on three post-9/11 prisoners, so its not as if its the default interrogation technique of the military or the CIA. But, you know, now that's one less thing the terrorists have to prepare for.

But more interestingly, his sanctimonious claim that we have to have the moral high ground is based in some reality far, FAR from this one. Did moral high ground protect him once upon a time, even in a U.N.-sponsored action? And how'd that moral high ground thing work out for Danny Pearl? Does McCain, for some bizarre reason, assume that people who would strap bombs to retarded women and send them into crowds to blow them up would really give anything resembling a crap about how we treat THEIR people.

It's delusional--it's beyond normal for a person with his background to refuse to deal in reality in such a way.

But that's John McCain.

But maybe his delusions are confined to that one area--maybe his background gives him a block where "torture" is concerned.

Nope. From FoxNewsSunday re: warrantless wiretaps of foreign-originated and ended calls that route through the U.S.

WALLACE: But you do not believe that currently he has the legal authority to engage in these warrant-less wiretaps.
MCCAIN: You know, I don't think so, but why not come to Congress? We can sort this all out. I don't think -- I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said here's why we need this capability, that they wouldn't get it.

I wonder if St. John will still feel that way when it's him in the Oval Office. I'm pretty sure it's easy to come up with a list of Congress people who would deny this--or his--administration the capability therein.

So if McCain doesn't feel very good about direct intelligence gathering, and he doesn't really want to gather intel with advanced technological means, how--EXACTLY--does he propose getting the intel that we so desparately need to successfully wage the GWOT?

Well, you would think that the answer to a significant question of that nature would take a prominent place on the campaign website. Or not (follow the link then scroll down).

America faces a dedicated, focused, and intelligent foe in the war on terrorism. This enemy will probe to find America's weaknesses and strike against them. The United States cannot afford to be complacent about the threat, naive about terrorist intentions, unrealistic about their capabilities, or ignorant to our national vulnerabilities.

In the aftermath of 9/11 John McCain fought for the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to identify how to best address the terrorist threat and decrease our domestic vulnerability. [How'd THAT work out, St. John?] He fought for the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the creation of the U.S. Northern Command with the specific responsibility of protecting the U.S. homeland.

As President, John McCain will ensure that America has the quality intelligence necessary to uncover plots before they take root, the resources to protect critical infrastructure and our borders against attack, and the capability to respond and recover from a terrorist incident swiftly.

And its not that I disagree with anything here. It's that there's nothing to disagree with--for a man who is supposedly "perfectly qualified" for this fight at this time in history, he is remarkably short on specific ideas. For instance, where was the "McCain-generic Senator" legislation expanding the CIA, broadening the mandate of the military intelligence services, and expanding the investment in electronic intelligence equipment over the last seven years? Where was the righteous indignation McCain seems to reserve for his fellow Republicans when it comes to the publication of classified programs and intelligence on the pagesof the NTYimes or the Washington Post?

I think, despite McCain's claim that he's been at the "center of every major foreign policy debate of the last 20 years," he has clearly been missing in action on taking the war to the terrorists.

So, while it's true that McCain was important to the now-inevitable victory in Iraq, that is but one battlefield in the larger war. And I haven't seen much from him to indicate he has any great ideas to push forward as far as dealing with the other pieces of the puzzle.

For instance: what happens if Pakistan goes on the edge, and a rogue general gets control of a few nukes, points them at India, and provokes a potentially nuclear confrontation in a region that has spillover into India and China? What does he do in a meeting with the Joint Chiefs when nobody has any answers? How does he handle Vlad Putin when Putin announces that he has to move three battalions onto the Indian border to protect his oil interests?

What, for instance, would McCain do if his emissary got played at the U.N. the way Colin Powell got played by Dominique DeVillepin?

It isn't that he doesn't have experience--clearly he does. In a large, force-on-force war, and in politics.

But I've never--NEVER--seen from him any indication of the capacity to manipulate strategic events in a way that forwards U.S. interests. For that matter, I've never seen from him the interest in forwarding U.S. interests.

His claim that he "knows how to get Bin Laden" has never been backed up by any action. That's a problem, as far as I'm concerned.

And when push comes to shove with Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi about shutting down intel ops on American soil, will McCain push back, or will he capitulate, and then shove back at Republicans who point it out?

If Vlad Putin decides to pursue his own interests and expand the totalitarian reach of his regime while denying America access to the intel and ground WE need, how would McCain deal with him? Conciliatory, like he is with Democrats? Or sanctimonious and insulting, like he deals with Republicans?

His pattern of operations shows an almost whimsical quality which is very poorly suited to winning a long, difficult war against constantly mutating and very persistent enemies. I have very little confidence in his ability to either craft a clever policy that ends our enemies, or in his ability to sell his ideas to the American public, which has an even shorter span of attention than he seems to.

I would submit that John McCain is, at best, only marginally better-suited to pursue the Global War on Terror than the other major candidates--including the Democrats. While I think he would be forceful in dealing with attacks on us, I also don't think he would be nearly forceful enough in attacking the enemy until they were dead. And that hardly makes him the undisputed CINC-in-waiting.

Just my opinion. I would love to hear from people with better military backgrounds than myself what they think of this opinion.

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