In Danger Of Agreeing

By Patrick Appel

Andrew's column this week focuses on a foreign policy and how the candidates "seem to be agreeing with one another, while adamantly refusing to admit it." The last few paragraphs:

So what are Obama and McCain now fighting over? They’re still fighting over the past, with Obama refusing to believe that the Iraq war has been anything but a massive strategic blunder, and McCain and Bush seeking retroactive justification for the whole adventure. On this, Obama has an edge - a heavy majority of Americans believe the Iraq war was a mistake, even though they are understandably divided about the next best step.

So we’re left at a deeper level with the question of presidential temperament. There is little doubt that a President McCain would have more hawkish instincts, would be quicker on the trigger than the cool, conciliatory Obama. However, Obama’s readiness to use military force in Pakistan and commitment to the Afghan war does not bespeak a Jimmy Carter-style liberalism either.

In fact, if you had to pick the most recent analogies for the style of foreign policy each man might manifest, McCain would be closer to Ronald Reagan and Obama closer to the first President Bush, whose diplomacy Obama regularly praises. And by Reagan, I don’t merely mean first-term Reagan. I mean the Reagan able to make a deal with long-time foes when he thought it could work; the Reagan able to remove forces from the battlefield if he felt they were being counterproductive.

This is not a seismic distinction. And the reason is not just that McCain and Obama represent some of the saner parts of their respective parties. It is that a mix of factors – both internal Iraqi shifts and Petraeus’s counterinsurgency tactics - have made Iraq less a question of catastrophe or quagmire and more a pragmatic question of how to withdraw as prudently as possible.

It’s amazing what a little bit of success can do for a war and a polity, isn’t it? Not “victory”, mind you, which at this point is a meaningless concept in a war whose justification was undermined within weeks of its start, but success and the pragmatic - rather than ideological - conundrums it presents.

The rest is here.