Today's Albany Times Union has an op-ed from Jonathan V. Last, a Philadelphia columnist, that defends Senator McCain against Senator Obama's charge that the Republican is asking for 100 years of war in Iraq. Last accuses Obama of distorting McCain's statement, but the real issue isn't whether the Democrat correctly characterized McCain's words, but whether the Arizonan's words are correct.
Basically Last recycles McCain's standard argument: American troops remaining in Iraq for 50 or 100 years will be unobjectionable to the electorate as long as there aren't casualties. McCain wants to establish an analogy with our long-term presence in Korea, Germany, etc., to which few apart from "isolationists" object. Last himself admits that Iraq isn't the same as these places, but proceeds to ignore the most crucial differences.
Last has the gall to add to McCain's list of long-occupied countries the Philippine Islands, where we stayed from 1899 to 1991, not counting our temporary eviction by Japanese forces. He notes that, after suppressing an insurrection, "U.S. troops stayed there even as the country took baby steps toward self-governance." Only when he notes that the U.S. granted the islands independence in 1946 does he acknowledge that the Philippines were, for all intents and purposes, an American colony. Presumably McCain is smart enough not to cite this as a model for America's future in Iraq.
South Korea is occupied, of course, to protect the country from an attack from the North. Japan is occupied to protect it from China. Germany was occupied to protect it from the Soviet Union (and why now???) None of these occupations involved the suppression of a native insurrection. Contrary to what some Bushies said in 2003, nothing of the kind emerged in Germany and Japan in 1945 because both countries considered themselves fairly and rightly beaten. However Iraqis feel about Saddam Hussein, most clearly don't consider themselves rightly beaten or legitimately occupied. That's a formula for perpetual insurrection and perpetual casualties. It's the same if you factor Iran into the equation. McCain might argue that we need to stay in Iraq to deter an Iranian invasion, but that's a ridiculous notion. Iran is most likely interested only in having a friendly regime next door, and they're likely to have that if we let history take it's course. So preventing Iranian (i.e. Shiite) hegemony most likely means suppressing the Iraqi majority, which sounds like another formula for perpetual insurrection and perpetual casualties.
Last closes his column by saying, "Obama's distortion of [McCain's] remark, however, is the first sign that he may not be a serious-minded candidate." It seems more likely to me that Obama was simply trying to expose the fact that McCain himself isn't taking things seriously.