Monday, March 03, 2008

Fish on Obama and McCain in Today's NYT

Stanley Fish, in today's NYT, makes the argument that Obama will be "boxed in" by the position that he has taken on Iraq during the nomination process. By taking the position that the U.S. should withdraw, Fish argues, Obama will be inflexibly committed to a stance that will be set against McCain's ability to continue to endorse the surge if it succeeds, while being able to tack towards modifications as the situation changes on the ground.

This presupposes three assumptions:

1) That the current reduction in violence is due to the U.S. military/force multiplication effects of the surge alone--rather than to the belief among Iraqis that the surge is linked to increased participation by Iraqis, and, thereby, to imminent withdrawal of American forces;

2) That the American public wishes to remain in the war, when a majority of Americans have indicated that they favor a withdrawal plan;

3) That a commitment by McCain to the same policies followed by George W. Bush will have a positive "halo" effect, enhancing McCain's popularity, in an electorate that is reacting in ways never seen before against such policies.

The response for Obama is clear: we enhance the process (already begun) of returning Iraq to Iraqi hands, extracting ourselves from a war that we never should have begun. We act in response to the majority of the electorate, which favors withdrawal from a conflict based on specious premises, while actively and aggressively pursuing the war outside of Iraq. And we turn from the poorly sourced, ill-considered, and reactive policies and cronyism of the prior Administration to policies based on reason, strength, and honesty with the American people.

-Dr. Alan J. Lipman