Wednesday, October 8, 2008

So we're going to bomb Laos again?

History hasn't been too kind to Richard Milhous Nixon. Then again, why should it be? Nixon's administrations now get their due respect in the realm of foreign affairs, but when it came to contempt for one's fellow citizens, Nixon reigned supreme.

But he did get something of a bum rap from the press in 1968: he never explicitly said that he has a secret plan to win Vietnam, he merely said that he couldn't reveal his plan because it would complicate peace talks in Paris. Moreover, the talk of a "secret plan" originated not with Nixon himself but rather with a voter at a New Hampshire campaign stop, but that didn't mean that Nixon didn't want us or the North Vietnamese to think he didn't have a plan (historical note: unless you're counting Operation Duck Hook, Nixon did not, in fact, have a plan for American victory in Vietnam). Tricky Dick just liked to play things close to the vest, and we can all agree that he really didn't appreciate people asking him nosy questions like, "How are you going to successfully prosecute a war thousands of miles from home in the face of domestic political dissent?"

John McCain---the mavericky gambler who's not afraid to take on tired, failed ideas in Washington---saw Nixon's coy refusal and raised him. In last night's debate, McCain said the following:

I'll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I'll get him. I know how to get him. I'll get him no matter what. And I know how to do it. But I'm not going to telegraph my punches, which is what Senator Obama did.

Well thank goodness someone knows how to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. And thank goodness that person was a maverick like John McCain. In fact, he's such a maverick that he never told anyone else in either party how to get bin Laden, even when you might think that was his job as a U.S. Senator! Brilliant! The Metternich of our time...

Sen. Obama said he would kill bin Laden in Pakistan if he had the opportunity. Sen. McCain considers that "telegraphing" one's punches, an argument that asssumes bin Laden is thick-skulled enough to think that the U.S. cares where it finds his dead body. GWS can't believe people still consider McCain knowledgable in international relations, because the last time a president insisted he had a secret plan for victory in a stupid, ill-conceived, unnecessary war, we ended up bombing Cambodia and Laos and inadvertently restricting Henry Kissinger's travel options for the rest of his life.

Forget "that one." McCain's worst moment last night was when he looked back in history and said to himself, "Y'know what? If it worked for Dick Nixon, it might work for me too."

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