Voting For Commander In Chief

Fred Kagan at The Weekly Standard breaks it down

It would be hard to design a better test for the job of commander in chief than the real-life test senators John McCain and Barack Obama have undergone in the last two years. As the situation in Iraq deteriorated during 2006 and the war reached its most critical moment, both senators served on national security committees: McCain on Armed Services, Obama on Foreign Relations. From those positions, with access to classified situation reports as well as the public testimony and private advice of those who knew the situation in Iraq best, each man reached an understanding of the facts on the ground and the interests at stake. And each proposed a strategy. It was as close as a presidential candidate could get to showing how he would respond to a national security crisis without already being in the White House.

Both men’s proposals are a matter of public record, available on the Internet. McCain set forth his in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on January 5, 2007 (at an event marking the release of AEI’s “Choosing Victory,” which I wrote, outlining a strategy like the one Bush later ordered). Obama presented his in the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007 ” (S. 433), which he introduced in the Senate on January 30. We also know the strategy the president chose–the surge of forces he announced on January 10, very similar to what McCain described–and the outcome it has brought.

So, we had Victory vs. Retreat and Defeat.

For any voter trying to choose between the two candidates for commander in chief, there is no better test than this: When American strategy in a critical theater was up for grabs, John McCain proposed a highly unpopular and risky path, which he accurately predicted could lead to success. Barack Obama proposed a popular and politically safe route that would have led to an unnecessary and debilitating American defeat at the hands of al Qaeda.

The two men brought different backgrounds to the test, of course. In January 2007, McCain had been a senator for 20 years and had served in the military for 23 years. Obama had been a senator for 2 years and before that was a state legislator, lawyer, and community organizer. But neither presidential candidates nor the commander in chief gets to choose the tests that history brings. Once in office, the one elected must perform.

To paraphrase Confederate Yankee, Obama has not only never even led a Cub Scouts troop, his isn’t ready to lead one, much less the U.S. Military. Meanwhile, Frank Rich goes gaga for the Missiah (yes, I mean to spell it that way)

On one side stands Mr. Obama’s resolutely cheerful embrace of the future. His vision is inseparable from his identity, both as a rookie with a slim Washington résumé and as a black American whose triumph was regarded as improbable by voters of all races only months ago. On the other is John McCain’s promise of a wise warrior’s vigilant conservation of the past. His vision, too, is inseparable from his identity — as a government lifer who has spent his entire career in service, whether in the Navy or Washington.

Yes, his cheerful embrace of how to lose a war. Sounds great! Hope! Change! Giving in to Islamic fundamentalists! Cheerful!

Somehow, in Rich’s world, being in government for a long time is now bad. Poor Teddy and Bobby B. They must be bad people, now.

So, what is Obama ready to lead?

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove and McCain Blogs

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