On Point: Iraqi Victory, Defeat for McCain?


by Austin Bay
July 22, 2008

It is ironic, but victory in Iraq could mean defeat for John McCain.

Crown the lucky Barack Obama, bury the courageous McCain -- what a fatefor a warrior senator who has played a key leadership role in Iraq's emergingvictory.

I'll repeat that description: "emerging victory." Terror campaigns andinsurgencies end with diminishing codas of violence.

In a recent column, I referenced the "Strategic Overwatch" video thatappeared on the Internet the first week of June. "Overwatch" is a military term.At the tactical level, one soldier moves, the other "covers" him (overwatches),ready to suppress enemy fire. At the strategic level, allied nations "cover" oneanother.

"Strategic Overwatch" is also a term I encountered when I served in theplans section of Multi-National Corps-Iraq in 2004 -- a desirable strategiccondition I thought the coalition and Iraqis could achieve.

"Strategic Overwatch" is a limited victory for a United States willing toremain a reliable Iraqi ally. "Strategic Overwatch" protects the much moreenthusiastic Iraqi version of victory. After his May 6, 2008, speech atQuantico, Va., I asked Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Hamid Al Bayatiwhat would constitute victory for the Iraqi people. He responded viscerally,"Every day we have democracy is a victory for the Iraqi people."

How blunt. The Iraqis have earned their democracy, and we owe them asolid alliance.

The video summarizes "Strategic Overwatch" in this manner:

Assumptions: The United States is in Iraq for thelong haul; Iraqi political progress continues.

Time to Develop: Could emerge by mid-to-late 2009,full-fledged by 2011.

Related Events: Iraqi Army continues to re-arm andmodernize; Iraq and the United States agree to a "long-range cooperationagreement" the Iraqi people see as advantageous to Iraq; ... Iraq begins toattract steady and sustained private investment; members of the Arab Leaguebegin forging stronger political and economic ties with Iraq.

Effect on Average Iraqi: Increased GDP ultimatelymeans a wealthier society; Iraqi neighborhoods revive; Baghdad's businesscommunity revives, and the city's nightlife returns.

Effect on Region: Increased internal trouble inIran as Iranian people object to the corrupt mullocracy and to the lack ofdemocracy in Iran; Iraqi-Turkish relations continue to strengthen; Iraq becomesmore assertive in Middle East politics and economic affairs; more Shia Arabstrife occurs in Lebanon (stoked by Iran) with the goal of distracting IraqiShias and-or "radicalizing" Iraqi foreign policy; Jordan re-emerges as a staunchally of Iraq.

Eight weeks after the scenario hit the Web, we should change "couldemerge" to "is emerging." Credit the Iraqis with accelerating the process.Operation Charge of the Knights (March-May 2008), which most so-called mediaexperts immediately labeled the "Basra blunder," demonstrated that the Iraqiarmy's operational capabilities had improved and that the Maliki governmentcould astutely turn security success into political solidification. Iraqi gainsmean a significant reduction in coalition combat forces could come by late 2009,with complete Iraqi combat responsibility by late 2010.

So why the irony? Barack Obama wanted to withdraw because Harry Reid andthe Democratic Party insisted we'd lost. As "Strategic Overwatch" develops, theUnited States can begin reducing its combat role because we are winning -- and"we" includes the Iraqis. McCain ought to reap the reward, but given thenational media's creampuff treatment of Obama, the next "instant truth" will be"see, we can withdraw."

But before Obama declares peace in our time, consider the "Effect onRegion" paragraph. The Iraqis want an alliance. That means Washington must beprepared to back Iraq in a confrontation with Iran. We know McCain can handlethat dangerous test. In the maelstrom moment when an Obama-advocated rapidmilitary withdrawal would have devastated the Iraqis, McCain stood firm.

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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