John McCain has been insisting that his 100 years in Iraq comment is being taken out of context. That in fact what he meant is that American troops can stay in Iraq for fifty or 100 years if American troops are no longer being attacked. This assertion leads to a whole new set of questions that reflect McCain's lack of understanding of what is going on inside Iraq.
First of all, how exactly does Senator McCain envision getting to a point where there are no American casualties in Iraq? The idea of a large American troop presence in Iraq that does not draw any fire is far-fetched. What we have in Iraq today is some odd and complicated mix of numerous sectarian conflicts with Americans stuck in the middle. This isn't Korea. There will be no armistice or Demilitarized Zone. Senator McCain has not laid out any kind of a roadmap or strategy for how we get to this idealized scenario where American forces are no longer being fired upon.
Second, how long does he think it will take to get to this end state that he envisions? Will it take 10 years? Will it take 20? 30? When under his plan do American troops stop taking casualties? It would be good to know.
Finally, there is the question of a permanent presence in Iraq and the strategic costs to the United States. One of the Bush Administration's premises for the war in Iraq, was the idea that we needed to eliminate Al Qaeda. But one of the major inspirations for Al Qaeda, was the American presence in Saudi Arabia. In a similar way, creating a large permanent troop presence in Iraq would act as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and draw anger and suspicion from all over the Arab World.
In the end, whether it's fighting in Iraq for 100 years or just staying in Iraq for 100 years under some fantastical scenario where our troops stop being targets, neither idea really makes much sense.