National Security Network

Conservative National Security Deficit

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Report 11 July 2008

Afghanistan budget iran iraq Maliki McCain Pakistan timetable troop level withdraw

Week Demonstrates Conservative Deficit on National Security; Progressive Positions Prevail on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Spending

In a week where national security issues interjected themselves unexpectedly, positions and recommendations long held by progressives proved prescient. In a startling development, Iraq’s Prime Minister, National Security Advisor, and Vice President all called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces as part of any security agreement – casting considerable doubt on efforts to keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely and highlighting the need for a responsible phased redeployment. Iran tested a series of missiles demonstrating the failure of the Bush administration’s approach to stem this increasing danger. The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan continued to deteriorate - as foreign terrorists flock to the border region and relations between the two countries break down - once again confirming the repeated calls from progressives of the need to focus on this growing danger. And finally, John McCain announced his economic plan, which not only ignored the budget busting impact of his defense policies, but was premised on the speedy withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. A position McCain has consistently opposed.

Iraqis press for timetable for U.S. withdrawal, creating complications for the McCain-Bush plan for long-term troop occupation of Iraq. In a striking development, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for the first time called for any new agreement with the United States to include a timetable for withdrawal of American forces. Maliki said that “the current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal.” Iraq’s National Security Advisor, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, and yesterday, Iraq’s Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi both confirmed Maliki’s statement. Meanwhile, McCain, after at first initially denying that Iraqi statements had called for a timetable, described these statements as just electoral politics and reconfirmed his plan for a long-term troop presence in Iraq insisting on Tuesday that, “I know for a fact that a [troop pullout] will be dictated by the situation on the ground, as it always has been.” He continued, “We can withdraw and withdraw with honor, not according to a set timetable…and I’m confident that is what Prime Minister Maliki is talking about.” Only it isn’t what Maliki is talking about since he is clearly signaling that the U.S. presence must end. [Reuters, 7/7/08; AP, 7/9/08; Huff Post, 7/10/08; ABC, 7/8/08]

Iran’s missile tests expose the failure of the Bush-McCain approach to Iran and demonstrate the need for aggressive diplomatic action. Iran’s missile tests this week shows the growing strength of the Iranian regime in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Yet it also demonstrates that the Bush-McCain approach of not talking to our adversaries s ineffective. Unfortunately, John McCain is for continuing this failed approach, which – just as in the case of North Korea – will only increase the likelihood of a nuclear Iran. As Lawrence Korb and Sean Duggan write in the Guardian “Had the Bush administration responded to the North's overtures before their 2006 test, it is likely that it would have had a better agreement; the US would have been negotiating from a position of strength, not weakness. While it is too late to revisit the past with North Korea, the administration should learn its lessons as it deals with Iran over its nuclear programme. As the great Israeli general Moshe Dayan said: ‘If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.’ It is past time for the Bush administration to heed this advice so that it does not have to settle for a poor deal with Iran as well.” [Reuters, 7/10/08, ABC, 7/10/08, NPR, 7/10/08, Guardian, 7/9/08]

The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is deteriorating – yet McCain has offered no plan and demonstrated little understanding of the situation. The New York Times reported this week that there has been an influx of foreign terrorists to the Pakistani tribal region and violence reached its highest levels since the war began. Additionally, relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have fell to a new low, with the Afghan government accusing the Pakistani intelligence services of sponsoring attacks. Meanwhile, John McCain has still failed to offer any plan to address this growing challenge and demonstrated this week a complete lack of understanding of the situation. McCain told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “I think if there is some good news, I think that there is a glimmer of improving relationship between Karzai and the Pakistanis.” McCain seemed to be unaware that the Karzai government accused Pakistan of supporting recent attacks and of trying to assassinate him, leading few to describe the relations between the two countries as “improving.” [Democracy Arsenal, 7/10/08; NY Times, 7/11/08]

McCain’s economic plans suggests significant troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan in conjunction with massive military buildup. To pay down the deficit, the McCain campaign said he “would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit” and seeing as “all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction.” Decreasing America's financial commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan can only be accomplished through significant reductions in the U.S. force presence in Iraq, and in order eliminate the deficit by 2013, that reduction would have to occur quickly after taking office. This remains incongruent with McCain’s call to “increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps from the currently planned level of roughly 750,000 troops to 900,000 troops,” which the CBO estimates would cost at least an additional $25 billion per year and will likely result in higher recruitment costs and lower standards. It also contradicts McCain’s rhetoric opposing troop withdrawals from Iraq. [Politico, 7/7/08, Huffington Post, 7/7/08, CBO, 4/16/07]

Quick Hits

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan is to be charged for “genocide and crimes against humanity” at the International Court of Justice. UN officials announced yesterday that the chief prosecutor will seek a warrant for arrest of the President, who is a key figure in orchestrating the atrocities of the Darfur genocide.

Russia and Georgia violated each other’s airspaces over South Ossetia, raising tensions in the region. Secretary Rice, who arrived in Georgia to mediate further peace talks, said that there had been “a number of moves... that in fact have not been helpful in terms of the frozen conflicts there.”

The photo of Iran’s missile launch on Wednesday was manipulated to show 4 missiles instead of the actual 3 that were being fired. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard posted the photo, which was subsequently used by AP and on the front cover of many newspapers, on one of their websites. Experts say that “Iran tends to exaggerate its capabilities,” but that, so far this hasn’t included the use of photo-shop.

Methods used on top Al-Qaeda captives were “categorically torture” and “could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes,” according to a new book by Jane Mayer about the government’s secret detention programs. The Red Cross report cited in the book depicts the horrible conditions, frequent abuse and brutal treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.

John McCain rounded up the week with ten critical mistakes that would normally spell certain doom for any candidate’s presidential aspirations. Aside from a plethora of flip-flops on the situation of troops in Iraq and pronouncements of utter misunderstanding of Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran, McCain’s economic plan and adviser seem ill-fitted for the office of President.