h&f 0043 From Anbar to ANWR: Reconciling McCain/Palin

Regarding two major pivots in this election, energy and the war, ostensible ideological conflicts and pending opinions on foreign policy direction come to front within McCain Palin ticket…   

wikipedia, "Al-Anbar"]

signing over Anbar - source: wikipedia


John McCain, January 2008: “As far as ANWR is concerned, I don’t want to drill in the Grand Canyon, and I don’t want to drill in the Everglades. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of the world.” 

Sarah Palin, per WSJ: She says McCain’s willingness to take another look at ANWR is…”calling an audible when conditions on the field are changing. And that’s what you do if you want to win the game here.” 


Note that the last significant attempt to repeal the ANWR protection was defeated due to the intervention of a few moderate Republicans, headed by then Rep. Charlie Bass, R-NH. 


You have to wonder where voices like that of Charlie Bass are today as the Republican party searches for new ideology.  By their own admission, the party may have lost its rudder and now sits in the midst not of soul searching but rather finding a soul to search, having tired of being branded by incompetence.


It is vital to America’s future to have two vigorous, intellectually honest ideological opponents (not enemies) as either side fights for the same thing, a better America.  We must have checks and balances running throughout our government, all the way down to the party system. 


I wouldn’t want a democrat-forever or republican-forever structure as that power would corrupt even more than we see now.  And I’m glad Libertarians make enough noise to bother both sides. 


McCain Palin and ANWR leave a big something to be reconciled.  ANWR is difficult to describe as an “audible.”  The “defense” facing it is not new, going back to  energy crises already faced, legislation going back to a 1971 law to settle Native American land claims and subsequent extension of those withdrawals of land from mining and exploration by the 1980 Act signed by Carter.   Audible?


On to Al-Anbar… Iraq’s largest governorate among 18 such provinces and the center of the most hostile fighting in the war.  As such, let’s usie Al-Anbar (and the recent handover of the province) here as a metaphor for the war and its complexities. 

Here’s how important the handover is to the people on the ground:


Major General John Kelly, the commander of US forces in Anbar, told officials gathered for the handover that they were “in the last ten yards of this terrible fight.” He said: “The goal is very near. Your lives and the lives of your children depend on this victory.”


His sentiment was echoed by Mamun Sami Rasheed, the governor of Anbar, who said: “We faced al-Qaeda and we paid dearly for this with our lives. Blood is spread over this great land.” Mr Rasheed embraced General Kelly and the two signed a document to mark the event. [the independent.co.uk]


John McCain attributes this and the overall condition of the war to the surge.  But, some clarification is needed here. McCain, as quoted by Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic, says:  


“So I’m not sure frankly that people really understand that a surge is part of counter-insurgency strategy which means going in, clearing, holding, building a better life, providing services to the people. And then clearly a part of that, an important part of it, was additional troops to help insure the safety of the sheiks, to gain control of Ramadi, which was a very bloody fight, and then the surge would continue to succeed as a counter-insurgency.’’


McCain deftly communicates the complexity of the war and the surge as not a simple boosting of troops, but rather as a holistic counterinsurgency strategy.


Obama responds in kind, in an interview with Bill O’Reilly, maintaining his position as opposite the administration’s strategy while still recognizing the current state of the war:


“I think that there’s no doubt that the violence is down,” Obama said. “I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated — by the way, including President Bush and the other supporters. It has gone very well partly because of the Anbar Awakening. [Sunni tribal elders switching allegiances from al-Qaeda to the Americans and the Iraqi government] …The president wanted to double down and continue an open-ended policy that did not create the kinds of pressure on the Iraqis to take responsibility… Look, I’ve already said it succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.  At the same time, he said, the Iraqi government hasn’t taken the steps necessary to become self-sufficient.”


To understand the impact of responses like this to an avowed combative interviewer, consider the comments by Wall Street Journal readers the abundance of which fell along these lines…


Obama did a great job — repeatedly trying to find and point out where he and O’Reilly agreed, and doing exactly what a potential world leader should do — not “tipping his hand,” as he said, to likely enemies. Especially after seeing this, I no doubt that he would be a tough Commander in Chief, and a better one, with more understanding of nuance and a more reasonable temperament, than McCain. I am registered Republican but will probably support Obama in November. Comment by Jen – September 4, 2008 at 11:34 pm


You’re not going to find objective coverage of Obama in the WSJ. The Democratic nominee was masterful and quick on his feet with BillO. It will be interesting to see if Palin will sit down with hostile journalists before the election or just hide out at Fox “News.” Comment by Anonymous – September 4, 2008 at 11:56 pm


agree with both bcc and jen–and i am also disappointed that write ups of this interview do not emphasize obama’s measured, level headed, and tough minded stance–he is not an ideologue…he looks at the facts and deals with them Comment by sonofkato – September 4, 2008 at 11:44 pm  


Of course, these are selected. Go to wsj to see the trend for yourself.

What makes this unclear in terms of foreign policy direction for the McCain Palin ticket is that the public does not have any indication of how and where Palin would intervene in the debate. 


Apart from just figuratively supporting the President, today’s Vice President is now expected to carry a good bit of the load to influencing counterpart world leaders. 

Palin has not yet faced serious American media (e.g. the Sunday shows), let alone the foreign press and cadre of world leaders who hold protocol and policy skill as prerequisites to engagement.   We’re in for news this election in an election that has yielded quite a bit already. 


~ by ericjhenderson on September 8, 2008.

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