McCain and Ireland

I serve on the board of a charity organization called Cooperation Ireland, dedicated to promoting peace in Northern Ireland between the nationalist and loyalist communities. This organization helps fund projects focused on bringing together two communities that have rarely intermingled in the last 30 years, communities that don’t really know, like or trust each other. Building peace is hard work, and the really hard work is not done by the politicians, it is done by the people.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spoke to our annual dinner in New York last night, and he did a great job. I am supporting Rudy Giuliani for president (he was honored by the group last year), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t respect McCain and his contributions to our nation.

McCain made the link between the good news in Ireland and the increasingly bad news in Iraq. Building civil societies out of communities that are sharply divided is hard work. Anybody looking for easy answers to the situation in Iraq is kidding himself. Just look how hard it was to implement the Good Friday Accords. Ten years later, and only now are the people of Northern Ireland getting the devolved government that had been promised.

That is what is so frustrating about the efforts by some Democrats to employ sound-bite diplomacy. It is easy to say “Get out now,” but it is a lot harder to do that without creating an economic and humanitarian disaster.

How we got into Iraq is a moot point. Perhaps we went in for the wrong reasons. After all, we never did find weapons of mass destruction. And maybe we mishandled the beginning stages of the occupation. I certainly think we did. But getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. And mistakes in war are not only common, they should be expected.

So, should we throw our hands up, say the situation is unfixable and pull out our troops, as the Democrats contend? Or should we give the Petraeus plan a chance to work? Some Democrats don’t even want to meet with Gen. Petraeus, saying in effect that they don’t believe him and they don’t believe in his plan. I think that is a mistake and a shame.

Sen. McCain is suffering at the polls because he is so closely tied to the war. But last night, he showed that he sees the big picture, and it includes the good news in Northern Ireland and the bad news in Iraq.