Mr. Obama’s War?

Obama opposed the surge, and McCain was its champion. Jonah Goldberg argues that the success of the surge will therefore favor… Obama.

If it were going worse, McCain’s Churchillian rhetoric would match reality better. But with sectarian violence nearly gone, al Qaeda in Iraq almost totally routed and even Sadrist militias seemingly neutralized, the stakes of withdrawal seem low enough for Americans to feel comfortable voting for Obama. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s support for an American troop drawdown pushes the perceived stakes even lower. …

Although the economy will dominate this election, McCain can still press his advantage on foreign policy. But not with I-told-you-sos. Re-arguing the surge is almost as counterproductive as re-arguing the war itself. Elections are about the future.

McCain doesn’t need to explain why he’d be a better commander-in-chief. Voters already acknowledge his superior judgment on foreign policy by huge margins. He needs to explain why, going forward, we’ll need that judgment.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t find a way to disagree with this. Thanks for bummin’ me out, Jonah.

The irony is that while a president has a tremendous, dominant impact on issues of war and national security, he has only a tenuous impact around the margins of the short-term economy. The next president, whoever he is, will enjoy an unearned boost in popularity from the economic upturn to come. Meanwhile the issues that matter most take a back seat, and the national security candidate gets penalized for the success of the course that he advocated.

If it’s going to become Mr. Obama’s war, I can take some comfort in the fact that at least he’s showing signs of an ability to think independently of the extreme pacifist wing of his party.

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