Deep Irony

The U.S. lost 13 soldiers in Iraq during October, eight in combat, matching the lowest total ever:

The sharp drop in American fatalities in Iraq reflects the overall security improvements across the country following the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and the rout suffered by Shiite extremists in fighting last spring in Basra and Baghdad.

When John McCain started his Presidential campaign, the U.S. was in danger of losing Iraq to some combination of al Qaeda and Iran. In considerable part because of McCain’s advocacy, President Bush, against the advice of many of his generals, decided to pursue General Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy. It was sort of like when Lincoln gave Grant the green light to take his punishing style of warfare to the Confederacy.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain began their Presidential campaigns as candidates who were defined largely by their foreign policy positions. Obama was the “pure” antiwar candidate, who hadn’t voted for the Iraq war, mainly because he wasn’t in either the House or the Senate at the time. McCain was the candidate who was, more than any other, committed to victory in Iraq and a strong defense against Islamic terrorism.

But because McCain was so spectacularly right, and because President Bush ultimately took his advice, the war has become a non-issue in the campaign. No one could have foreseen it: the 2008 Presidential race is about the banking industry and the stock market, not the war against Islamic terrorism. And, in just one of the many ironies of this election season, the result may well be that the candidate who was most spectacularly wrong about Iraq–Barack Obama–will benefit from the fact that his opponent was proved right, and win the White House. This is why throughout human history, people have referred to the “wheel of fortune,” not the “wheel of justice.”

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