“Not that important”

McCain puts his foot in it again on Iraq. But even what he meant to say was wrong.

I see Sen. McCain is whining again that he didn’t really mean what he said and nasty ol’ Sen. Obama is mistweating him by quoting his own words back to him. Whatever.

Just three points on the substance, though:

1. For lots of the folks in Iraq &#8212 the Guardsmen and reservists who didn’t expect to be deployed to a war zone when they signed up &#8212 service in Iraq is a substantial hardship, even if no one gets hit. From them and their families, when they get to come home and resume their normal lives is, indeed, “that important.”

2. Troops tied down in Iraq aren’t available for duty elsewhere. That reduces our leverage in every potential conflict everywhere in the world.

3. The McCain strategy amounts to leaving our troops in harm’s way and hoping that the various armed groups in Iraq eventually decide to stop shooting at them. Under the McCain plan, our enemies get to decide how long our soldiers keep dying. Under the Obama plan, we get to decide. Which plan do you prefer?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com