That statement, easily the top contender for Stupidest Thing Said This Week, issued from the mouth of Senator John McCain, presumptive Republican nominee for President. He said it as part of a riposte to the presumptive Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama's editorial, in which Senator Obama stated that our military adventure in Iraq distracted us away from the fight in Afghanistan against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Obama's assertion is true on its face. Our colonial war and occupation in Iraq has in fact drawn off manpower and materiel that could have been used to keep the Afghan insurgency from growing into the problem that it now is. Last week, nine US soldiers were killed and fifteen wounded when the insurgents launched a highly coordinated attack on a new outpost in Kunar province.
But it was McCain's statement that he knows how to win wars that stopped me cold. I had to shut the browser window and leave my office. I had to walk around a bit.
If I hadn't, I feel that my head would have exploded with enough force to drive slivers of bone into the wallboard. Ten feet away.
"I know how to win wars."
I seem to recall that Senator McCain fought in the Vietnam War, a conflict that many historians and military analysts conclude was a loss for the United States. A loss? Yes; we failed to achieve our strategic objective of containing Communism and keeping South Vietnam separate and sovereign.
Perhaps Senator McCain was speaking of his leadership skills, directing mass movements of men and firepower in order to take objectives and achieve victory?
Perhaps Senator McCain was speaking of his influence and authority in setting warfighting policy as part of the Executive Branch?
Let's look at the wars we've fought, either in person or by proxy, since Vietnam:
Iran-Iraq War? Well, Saddam was Our Boy during those eight years; we gave him virtual carte blanche and turned a blind eye to his use of WMDs. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
El Salvador Civil War? We backed the right-wing government, even to providing trainers and observers and turned a blind eye to the militias and death squads. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Israel-Lebanon? Apart from the Israeli/Lebanese Christian massacres of the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and the loss of 241 Marines to a truck bomb, all that war did was chase the PLO to Tunis and leave a vacuum that Syria was quick to fill. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Angola Civil War? Reagan called UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi the African equivalent of Abe Lincoln (which would have given the Great Emancipator a heart attack) despite the fact that Savimbi was a cold-hearted terrorist. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Nicaragua-Contras? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Panama Intervention? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Grenada? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
First Iraq War? Saddam thought our carte blanche regarding him and Iran extended to Kuwait. We proved him wrong. Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Bosnia? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Kosovo? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Somalia? Did McCain have any influence on that, apart from voting?
Recall that McCain was a fighter pilot, a naval aviator. While he may have classes in leadership at Annapolis he did not lead troops in combat. A fighter cockpit usually seats only one person, after all. He spent five years in a POW camp; after that, he was assigned to the Pentagon until he was retired as a Captain (which must still itch at him, as his father and grandfather were Admirals). He went into politics.
So, based on what we know, did Senator McCain have any direct influence on any of the conflicts we've engaged in over the past 33 years apart from voting on spending bills or authorizations for force?
And if he didn't have any direct influence, what makes him think he'd be better than Senator Obama at prosecuting these current wars?