The problem with John McCain's 100 years in Iraq formulation isn't that he's calling for 95 more years of combat--he isn't--but that he thinks you can have a long-term basing arrangement in Iraq similar to those we have in Germany or Korea. That betrays a fairly acute lack of knowledge about both Iraq and Islam. It may well be possible to station U.S. troops in small, peripheral kingdoms like Dubai or Kuwait, but Iraq is--and has always been--volatile, tenuous, centrally-located and nearly as sensitive to the presence of infidels as Saudi Arabia. It is a terrible candidate for a long-term basing agreement.
Furthermore, McCain's frequent "You don't know anything" tirades about national security might be more effective if he had a better sense of the war in question. When I asked him about Basra in January, he assured me that it was "not a problem." Last week, he seemed to think it was a good idea for the militia that calls itself the Iraqi Army to attack the militia that calls itself the Mahdi Army. So did George W. Bush, who posited it as the good guys fighting the "terrorists." This betrayed a fundamental lack of knowledge about Shi'ite politics, something any good President or presidential contender--especially one who styles himself a "national security" expert--needs to study. McCain surely knows more about the military than Barack Obama does--and Obama certainly needs to learn more--but McCain's carelessness and oversimplification, and wrong analysis, when it comes to the situation in Iraq puts him in a surprisingly vulnerable position.
It would be a daring act of jujitsu for Democrats to brand McCain as ignorant about Iraq policy. But some also initially thought it goofy to attack John Kerry's Vietnam service....