McCain and the 100 year occupation: Revisited

PHOTO: Burning Mosque in Iraq

Check out the original John “100 Years in Iraq” McCain post (with video) on this subject.

Back in early January, Republican presidential nominee John McCain made it clear he would like to have troops in Iraq for 100 years. He later backed down from that crazy position and expressed a more realistic desire to keep our troops in Iraq for one thousand or one million years.

Since that time, McCain has received scant media scrutiny for his comments—they’re too focused on Rev. Wright— and an attack or two from Democrats. But still, McCain has charged back at these tepid attacks. He claims he’s being taken out of context and his allies, unsurprisingly, agree. They point to this part of his comments:

How long — we have been in — we have been in South Korea — we have been in Japan for 60 years. We have been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me … as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it’s fine with me. I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day

You can count me as someone who thinks the larger context doesn’t help McCain’s case. Ezra Klein summed it up pretty well back on April 9th (bolding added by me):

You can take McCain’s comments one of two ways: The first is that he’s almost obsessive about projecting his comfort with American military power. No one forced him to say we should be in Iraq for 100 years. The questioner mentioned Bush’s comment that we could be there 50 years, and McCain, with no prodding, doubled it. Add in his endless support for the surge and our deployment, his military heritage and his belief in the justness of American might, and you’re looking at a leader who is constitutionally incapable of pulling the troops out of Iraq. It’s just not in him. The second way to understand the quote is that McCain is dumb. American occupations in Arab lands are not gladly accepted, trouble-free things. They inflame public opinion, create insurgencies, and power terrorist movements like al Qaeda. If his endpoint is a continued, peaceful occupation, we’re going to have an endless violent occupation on the way to never getting there.

And drilling down another level, what you’re left with is a guy who can’t see any reason to leave Iraq, ever. If there’s violence, we should stay to combat it. If there’s peace and acceptance of our troops, we should stay to, well, it’s not quite clear what we’re there to do, but whatever it is, McCain’s supports it. So we won’t leave as a result of conflict and we won’t leave as a result of its cessation. What other options are there, but endless occupation? To call this imperialism is an insult to the coherence of the imperialist ideology. It’s an impulse for military deployment masquerading as an actual approach to world affairs.

Precisely. According to McCain, we’re bound by Klingon honor to succeed in Iraq, and once we succeed, we might as well stay forever. Why does this guy get more credit for foreign policy experience than Obama again?

And finally, what about the costs of a South Korea like presence in Iraq? Josh Marshall did some research on that and come up with some fascinating figures:

Yesterday I noted how the long-term Social Security deficit which pundits commonly describe as a long-term fiscal crisis is projected not to cost that much more than the first 75 of John McCain’s 100 years in Iraq. And to be clear, this is not factoring the costs of the present occupation out 75 years into the future. These are the cost estimates put together last year by the Congressional Budget Office for a South Korea model in Iraq, in other words, a much smaller number of troops remaining in the country with no actual hostilities.

So whether or not it’s likely that Iraq is going to settle down into a situation like in South Korea, this is costing out precisely what McCain says he supports. Yesterday, I noted that even with the very conservative estimates the CBO used the price tag for 75 years came to $3 trillion. And that was compared to the Social Security deficit over the same period coming out to $4.7 trillion.

Marshall goes on to explain that the projections for Social Security are actually showing the situation improving, but he didn’t use those numbers in his post. This is pretty much the worse case scenario for Social Security versus the best case scenario for Iraq. In any case, that’s interesting information to have handy when a staunch war supporter prattles on about how “entitlements” are destroying the United States.


  1. Cameron

    So… it looks like we’ll have been in Germany and Japan for 100 years within our own lifetimes. And yet I don’t hear you complaining about that. Hypocrit. 🙂

  2. Chris

    Consider the complaints filed.

    I could see a justification for carrier patrols around Japan, but I don’t think we should commit our troops to protecting their mainland. The same goes for Germany. It’s a waste of money and manpower.

  3. Ian

    I don’t like the use of the word “occupation” in this argument. Having a base in a country and an occupation are two very different things. I feel like you are taking this out of context and trying to suggest that the nonsense going on in Iraq right now will continue for 100 years and that is just ignorant. Its fine if you don’t think we should have bases but be realistic about it. Like the second highlighted portion of the Klein comments are stupid. It shouldn’t be hard to make an argument against having bases in a country without trying to twist it into an “unending occupation”.

  4. Chris

    I feel like you are taking this out of context and trying to suggest that the nonsense going on in Iraq right now will continue for 100 years and that is just ignorant.

    Maybe not at this level, but how many soldiers, how much money and how many Iraqis are you willing to sacrifice to pacify Iraq? John McCain has shown absolutely no concern over the cost of the war. If the situation improves, we stay, if the situation gets worse, we stay.

  5. Ian

    You still aren’t addressing my point, that it isn’t “occupation” to have bases.

    “If the situation improves, we stay, if the situation gets worse, we stay.”

    Which is the basic idea behind having bases in a country. I don’t think you are going to find many politicians who will agree with you here. Even Democrats who might want to pull out would probably agree with the sentiment that we should have bases in Iraq long term. This isn’t a war fought for charity.

  6. Chris

    At some future point, our adventure in Iraq may cease to be an occupation. You are correct on that point. It’s not a 100% certainty but it is likely.

    But there is also the reality of the highly religious inhabitants of the Middle East. Bin Laden and others started their jihad against the U.S. for primarily two reasons, 1) our support for Israel and 2) Our military presence in Saudi Arabia. That’s why the consensus about long term bases in Iraq is wrong. Even if our intentions were benign, our bases would still have the appearance of being part of an occupation by the inifidels.

  7. Ian

    This isn’t the first time we would have had bases in the middle east. This isn’t some new idea. We’ve been there for a while now. Al Qaeda hasn’t been attacking bases in more established countries with actual security.

  8. Chris

    Let’s try this from a different perspective. What are we getting from these bases that is worth the increase in anti-American hostility?

  9. Cameron

    I think if we had lots of bases in a quieter Iraq, mayhaps we wouldn’t need so many troops wandering around the holier areas of Saudi Arabia. Just a thought.

  10. Chris

    IIRC, the first Bush was forced to withdraw the bulk of our troops from Saudi Arabia. In any case, I don’t see why we need our troops in either country,

  11. Ian

    “What are we getting from these bases that is worth the increase in anti-American hostility?”

    Sorry, but lets put it this way, from an Arab speaking like you: “What are we getting from blowing up the World Trade Center that is worth the increase in anti-Arab hostility?” or “What are we getting from attacking US troops in Iraq that is worth the increase in anti-Arab hostility?” I think both of those statements are ludicrous, just as I think yours is. A lot of the anti-Arab (or anti-Islam) sentiment in this country is from ignorant people who want to blame some “camel riders” or other such nonsense, but a lot of people think a little smarter and choose not to blame an entire region, race, or religion. I think the same has to be true in the Middle East where people can understand that us having bases in Iraq doesn’t mean we are imperialists or that the American people necessarily support what the American military does. Frankly, I don’t think we should care about their public opinion polls either way.

  12. Clint


    An occupation can be different from having military bases, but not necessarily. I agree that it won’t be an occupation for 100 years.

    However, I think the presence of bases will be imperialistic because — let’s be honest — our government doesn’t give a damn about Iraqi safety/stability for its own sake. Bases will be maintained to ensure that Iraq stays an obedient US client state.

    (By the way, my last sentence has been the Iraqi consensus on US motives for war/occupation from the beginning.)

    As for opinion polls, we should pay very close attention to them. Check this out:

    “The belief that the United States plans to have permanent bases in Iraq is highly correlated with support for attacks on U.S.-led forces. Among those who believe this, 68 percent approve of attacks. Among those who believe that the United States plans to withdraw once Iraq is stabilized, only 34 percent approve of attacks.”

  13. Ian

    I still don’t see why it matters. Like I sort of implied with my charity comment, if you think that we went over to Iraq to bring the Democracy, you are naive. I know you don’t think that, and I think most middle easterners don’t think that either. I don’t know why we are in Iraq, I don’t think many people outside of Bush’s cabinet really know either. I’m not trying to defend that or necessarily defend that we have bases. My point is, whatever we went over to Iraq for, it wasn’t because we care about those peoples’ opinions. We didn’t really ask everyone over there if was OK if we invade in the first place. Why do you expect us to have to ask permission now? I’m not approving of it, but I just don’t understand the rationale behind us being the bully and then suddenly becoming sensitive. Yeah, maybe its the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean we will do it or have any reason to think we have to.

    “Bases will be maintained to ensure that Iraq stays an obedient US client state.”

    I actually disagree with that statement. That sounds more like occupation and imperialism. I think we keep bases in Iraq to maintain a military influence in the region that can be exercised when we desire. I think that is why we have bases all over the world. If we did someday go to war with Iran, we would have a great launching pad for our attacks. I certainly hope we never go to war with Iran or any other country for that matter and I am not trying to defend the fact that we have bases. I’m just saying why we keep bases. Like take South Korea and Japan for example. We have bases there because of China and North Korea, not because we want the Japanese and South Koreans to remain subservient.