August 31, 2003

JOHN MCCAIN:

America’s mission in Iraq is too important to fail. Given the stakes, we cannot launch this “generational commitment” to changing the Middle East on the cheap. The administration should level with the American people about the cost and commitment required to transform Iraq.

Americans must understand how important this mission is and be prepared to sacrifice to achieve it. Without an intensive campaign now to explain what is at stake and absent the necessary political and financial commitment, we raise the potential for a defeat that will deal a lasting blow to American interests and freedom’s progress.

Having liberated Iraq, we must demonstrate the tangible benefits of occupation, which the Iraqi silent majority will tolerate if it successfully delivers services, law and order and a transition to Iraqi rule. The danger is that our failure to improve daily life, security, and Iraqis’ participation in their own governance will erode their patience and fuel insurrection.

We do not have time to spare. If we do not meaningfully improve services and security in Iraq over the next few months, it may be too late. We will risk an irreversible loss of Iraqi confidence and reinforce the efforts of extremists who seek our defeat and threaten Iraq’s democratic future.

This isn’t news to the blogosphere, of course, but it’s nice to see that both John McCain and Howard Dean get it. That substantially shrinks the cut-and-run constituency, I’d imagine. McCain is, of course, right about the importance of what’s going on in Iraq. What’s frustrating is that the reporting from there is simultaneously biased and incomplete, for reasons already elaborated all over the blogosphere. But that’s a real disservice, given the importance of the situation.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

You link to McCain’s speech sounding the call for openness about the cost, in time and money, of the war on terror. Then you say this is no news to the blogosphere. Is it your belief that Bush has failed to get this message across? Is the blogosphere really so savvy that it’s the only group of people who can understand the president’s message? I know I’ve heard him mention many times that it will take years and billions. I also know that I’ve heard liberal pundits pretending that, far from having said that, Bush has instead said it will be quick and cheap. It’s dishonest for McCain to speechify as if that was actually the case.

What I found interesting was the commitment to staying the course, not the sniping at the Administration. I agree that Bush has made plain (at least to those who actually listen to the speeches) that this will be a long and expensive struggle. It’s interesting to note, though, that to the extent Bush’s critics are moved to go after him on these grounds, they’re forced into a position of hawkishnes.