Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wizard McCain to deploy troops two places at once

John McCain famously confessed that economics was not his strong suit. Perhaps that's why he continues to propse offsetting $400 billion per year in new tax cuts with cuts in earmarks, on which total spending is $18 billion per year according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Military strategy on the other hand is a professed McCain strong suit. But Fred Kaplan makes it clear that McCain is no better at adding up (or subtracting) troop deployments than he is adding up budget numbers.

Kaplan points out that McCain and Obama have both proposed sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obama has proposed adding at least two brigades; McCain, following suit, now proposes adding at least three. Kaplan:
That does sound the same—except for one thing. Obama also calls for substantial withdrawals of troops from Iraq; some of them would be redeployed to Afghanistan. McCain does not advocate troop reductions from Iraq beyond the five surge brigades that left this month because their 15-month tours of duty were complete.

Here's the problem: The U.S. Army is stretched so thin that, according to its own calculations, no extra combat units can be sent to Afghanistan unless the same number of units is pulled out of Iraq. There is no flexibility here. So if McCain wants to put three more brigades in Afghanistan, where is he going to get them?
Kaplan rather gently dubs McCain's analysis of current U.S. military needs "a bit of a fantasy." That's nothing new in the Land of McCain.

McCain is a 'maverick' in the sense that he idiosyncratically picks out isolated issues for sustained passionate engagement. What he can't or won't do is stitch individual proposals together in a coherent overarching policy in which the pieces add up. As not only does he flip-flop, he holds contradictory positions at the same time. He's perfectly comfortable with telling us -- and maybe himself -- that 2 + 2 = 5 (or in this case, that 3 - 3 = 3). Haven't we seen this movie before?

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