McCain: I Know What Iraqis Want

Meredith Viera asks John McCain about the fact that the Iraqi government keeps praising his opponent's vision of forward-looking Iraq policy. McCain retorts:

I have been there too many times. I've met too many times with him, and I know what they want. They want it based on conditions and of course they would like to have us out, that's what happens when you win wars, you leave. We may have a residual presence there as even Senator Obama has admitted. But the fact is that it should be -- the agreement between Prime Minister Maliki, the Iraqi government and the United states is it will be based on conditions. This is a great success, but it's fragile, and could be reversed very easily. I think we should trust the word of General Petraeus who has orchestrated this dramatic turnaround.

A few points. Clearly, it would be a bad idea to totally ignore the views of General Petraeus at CENTCOM. And you're also going to want to talk to General Odierno commanding US forces in Iraq. And you're going to want to talk to a variety of other civilian and military officials responsible for US policy in Iraq and around the region. You don't want to just ignore anyone's point of view. But by the same token you can't ignore Maliki's perspective. That's not even a question of Maliki versus Petraeus, it's a question of Maliki's views being relevant to Petraeus giving any serious assessment of the situation. Until these past couple of weeks it wasn't even controversial to say that if the Iraqi government wants us to go, we should go. The debate was about whether we should go even if they want us to stay.

Second -- the arrogance on display here is stunning. McCain is saying we should ignore the expressed views of the Iraqi government because he knows (through telepathy? experience? "cred"?) that secretly these aren't their views. That's ridiculous.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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