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John McCain's Blundering Week On Foreign Policy

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This week, John McCain's positions on critical foreign policy issues such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have all been undermined by the assessments of our intelligence community, members of the military leadership and his own respected foreign policy advisers.

In a rejection of McCain's statements that "victory" in Iraq is near, reports indicate that a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has found that security gains are precarious, and long-standing political and ethnic grievances could cause the country to erupt in violence. Moreover, in a speech this week, General David Petraeus contradicted McCain's positions on using our Iraq strategy in Afghanistan and on negotiating with our enemies. Even more damaging to McCain were troubling reports that a second NIE -- this one on Afghanistan -- will indicate a "downward spiral," further indicting McCain's previous neglect of the issue and his past remarks that it would be enough to "muddle through." Finally, in a damaging critique of the Senator's bellicosity toward Russia, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz cautioned that U.S. interests demanded a strong effort to ease tensions with a resurgent Russia. From his premature declarations of Victory in Iraq, to his plan to use the Iraq strategy in Afghanistan, to his refusal to engage with enemies, to his reckless, adversarial approach for dealing with Russia, this week found John McCain on the wrong side of every issue.

National Intelligence Estimate directly undermines McCain's premature proclamations of victory in Iraq.
McCain has repeatedly declared victory in Iraq, saying in 2007 "we've succeeded militarily," and more recently that "victory in Iraq is finally in sight." But just this week, McClatchy reported that a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) warned "that unresolved ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iraq could unleash a new wave of violence, potentially reversing the major security and political gains achieved over the last year." "The findings seem to cast doubts on McCain's frequent assertions that the United States is "on a path to victory" in Iraq by underscoring the deep uncertainties of the situation despite the 30,000-strong U.S. troop surge for which he was the leading congressional advocate." [John McCain, 11/24/07. John McCain, 8/17/08. McClatchy, 10/07/08 ]

Statements by General Petraeus undercut McCain.
Earlier this week, General David Petraeus delivered a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation that undermined several positions held by Senator McCain. Petraeus first undercut McCain's fervent support for using the "same strategy" in Afghanistan that was used in Iraq, by saying bluntly "every situation is unique." "Petraeus also came out unambiguously in his talk at Heritage for opening communications with America's adversaries, a position McCain is attacking Obama for endorsing. Citing his Iraq experience, Petraeus said, 'You have to talk to enemies.'" Finally, on Pakistan, an area where McCain has criticized rival Barack Obama for stating his intention to strike at al-Qaeda safe-havens, Petraeus addressed "the need to 'take away and hold the strongholds and safe havens' possessed by Al Qaeda in Iraq during 2007 and 2008, saying that without doing so, the rest of the counterinsurgency strategy 'won't work.'" For McCain, who for months has "wrapped himself in the mantle" of General Petraeus, the speech was damaging. [Washington Independent, 10/8/08. General David Petraeus, 10/08/08]

Grim Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan warns of dire consequences of American neglect and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs agrees.
Talking about Afghanistan Admiral Mullen said yesterday, "The trends across the board are not going in the right direction. . . I would anticipate next year would be a tougher year." A draft National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Afghanistan found that the country is in chaos. The deteriorating conditions addressed in the report extend well beyond those covered by John McCain's simplistic plan to apply the Iraq strategy to Afghanistan. Beyond the escalation of extremist attacks, the report assesses "that many of Afghanistan's most vexing problems are of the country's own making," according to intelligence officials. "[R]ampant corruption within the government of President Hamid Karzai" and "the destabilizing impact of the booming heroin trade, which by some estimates accounts for 50 percent of Afghanistan's economy" have contributed to the deteriorating situation. Afghanistan's "downward spiral" is a direct result of the Bush Administration's obsession with Iraq, a fixation John McCain bolstered when he said in 2001 that "nobody in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America" and when he declared in 2003 that we could afford to "muddle through." [NY Times,10/9/08. Washington Post, 10/9/08. NY Times, 10/9/08. John McCain,4/10/03. John McCain, 11/05/03]

Kissinger-Shultz op-ed contradicts McCain's confrontational approach toward Russia.
Following the Russia-Georgia Crisis, John McCain adopted an aggressive posture toward Russia, steadily ratcheting up the rhetoric of confrontation. Instantly taking sides, saying "we are all Georgians," McCain escalated tensions further by calling the affair the most "serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War." In the weeks that followed, his running-mate appeared willing to risk war with Russia, and both Presidential debates featured McCain using cold-war language, saying that the country has "basically a KGB apparatchik-run government." This bellicosity was rejected this week by McCain's own advisor, Henry Kissinger, who, in an op-ed written with fellow former Secretary of State George Shultz, argued: "This drift toward confrontation must be ended. However appropriate as a temporary device for showing our concern, isolating Russia is not a sustainable long-range policy. It is neither feasible nor desirable to isolate a country adjoining Europe, Asia and the Middle East and possessing a stockpile of nuclear weapons comparable to that of the United States." [John McCain, 8/12/08. John McCain, 8/14/08. Sarah Palin, 9/11/08. John McCain, 9/26/08. John McCain, 10/07/08. Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, 10/08/08]