So how does the McCain campaign respond to sporadic news reports that U.S. special forces carried out an attack in Syrian territory? Well a responsible campaign (i.e. the Obama campaign) would follow the White House's lead and offer no comment until they got more information. But instead the McCain campaign opts for blatant politicization. Here is McCain spokesman Michael Goldfarb:
"Syria is a state sponsor of terror and a sanctuary for terrorists that target U.S. troops in Iraq, yet Barack Obama has pledged to meet personally and unconditionally with Syria's leaders during his first year in office. While John McCain has been demanding that Syria do more to crack down on terrorists moving from its territory into Iraq, Barack Obama allowed one of his closest foreign policy advisers to travel to Syria for discussions with the leaders of that rogue regime. Barack Obama opposed the surge, voted against funding for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and demanded the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. If Barack Obama had his way, U.S. forces would not have been in a position to launch this strike. So does Barack Obama support this action -- an action that would not even have been possible if his policies had been implemented?"
This is so absurd. Let me count the ways. First, McCain is once again demonstrating the recklessness and impulsiveness that makes one question whether he can in fact be commander in chief. There is only one proper response to this. The same response that the Obama campaign gave, which is that you just simply don't discuss a military operation if the White House and the military are refusing to comment. The issue is a sensitive one and a question of national security. You take your lead from them and wait until you have all the facts, instead of trying to score cheap political points.
Second, here is the McCain campaign accusing Senator Obama of supposedly not being willing to crossover into Syria, even though he has rightly not commented on it at all.
But Senator McCain has previously mocked Senator Obama for being willing to go into Pakistan and go after high value Al Qaeda targets. The intelligence community tells us that the greatest threat to the homeland and the place where an attack would most likely be planned is on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. But the McCain campaign seems to be arguing that smuggling routes from Syria into Iraq are a higher priority target than terrorist training camps in Pakistan. That is an exact rehash of invading Iraq to fight terrorism, while taking your eye off of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We've tried it before. It didn't work.
Finally, there is the argument about not meeting with Syria. Here is the thing. Israeli PM Olmert has stated publicly that Israel should move to direct negotiations directly with the Syrians and the Israelis are currently in talks through a Turkish mediator. Ambassador Nick Burns, who was Bush's point man on Iran for three years, had a piece out this weekend arguing for direct talks with our enemies. Colin Powell, James Baker, the Iraq Study Group, and numerous Republican foreign policy experts have all called for talks with Syria. McCain is the odd man out on this one.
And yet, his campaign, which claims national security as its greatest strength, is irresponsibly politicizing this story one week before the election.
Update: Max Bergmann has previously pointed out that McCain himself was for talking to the Syrians before he was against it.
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