But Will They Be Better If We Stay?

Ross discusses McCain's foreign policy speech:

Obama's speech cast the Iraq War as a financial sinkhole, draining billions or even trillions of dollars from America's coffers. He rolled out a litany of domestic goals that could be pursued with the money the United States is spending trying to stabilize Iraq, and cast the debate over whether to withdraw as a choice between an ruinously expensive nation-building effort on the one hand, and universal health care, affordable college education, tax cuts for the middle class, and "protecting Social Security today, tomorrow, and forever." McCain, by contrast, spoke the language of honor, duty and obligation, and cast the question of whether to leave Iraq in starkly moral terms: "To walk away from the Iraqi people and consign them to ... horrendous violence, ethnic cleansing and possibly genocide," he argued, would represent "an unconscionable act of betrayal, a stain on our character as a great nation."

To a war-weary nation, Obama's cool pragmatism has obvious appeal, but on a fundamental level McCain's calculus is the right one.

America's responsibility for the current stability and future prospects of Iraq -- a poor, tyrannized nation that our policies have plunged into bloody chaos -- can't be waved away by pointing out that we could be spending those billions on ourselves instead. If Obama wants to claim the moral as well as the political high ground, he can't just make the case that Americans will be better off if the United States withdraws from Iraq; he needs to mount a persuasive argument that Iraqis will be better off as well.