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Michael Kinsley describes the Democrats' dilemma in the coming year regarding Iraq in today's Washington Post. It's vintage Kinsley, sneering and mocking towards the Bush administration, but saves it real venom for the incoherence coming from the Democratic presidential candidates:
Among the Democrats, Howard Dean's position is almost coherent. He opposed the war before it started, and he believes it has not turned out well. There is a tiny question of why Dean bothers to have a "seven-point plan" for Iraq instead of just one point: Bring the troops home. After all, Iraq is less of a threat to international order and its own citizens than when Saddam Hussein was in power. If it wasn't worth American lives to improve the situation then, why is it worth more lives now?
It's downhill from Dean. Joe Lieberman probably comes next. He was a strong supporter of removing Hussein by force -- a position consistent with his general worldview -- and yet was prescient in warning, before the war started, about some of the problems everyone points to now. Then come Dick Gephardt, John Edwards and John Kerry. They all supported the resolution authorizing Bush to go to war -- a position with the whiff of strategy about it, given each man's record or lack of it on such issues -- and they all are highly critical of what that resolution has wrought. Trailing the parade is Wesley Clark. His claim to fame is that he supported the use of ground troops in the Balkans. He squandered the non-officeholder's luxury of voting in hindsight on the Iraq resolution by not having his story straight. Meanwhile, he is highly critical of the war as it played out.
Kinsley stresses that the true problem for these leading candidates is their initial support for the war authorization which gave Bush a carte blanche. Even if they insist that the authorization was a mistake, Kinsley says, it points out that they made a tremendous error in judgment, one that by implications renders them unworthy of office. Kinsley sneers about the authorization and its implementation:
But the resolution these gentlemen supported gave warmaking authority to George W. Bush, not to some idealized, all-wise president such as themselves. The resolution did not say, "This authorization to start a war is valid only when used in conjunction with at least two other countries large enough to spot on a medium-sized world map." Nor did it tell Bush to wait until . . . until . . . until when? The resolution gave George W. Bush the authority to decide when the waiting for friends to join in or the foe to back down had gone on long enough. If Bush bungled this authority, entrusting him with it was a big mistake.
This passage demonstrates more about Kinsley's lack of knowledge than Congress' lack of insight. After receiving this resolution, Bush argued for five months to get the UN Security Council to enforce its previous 16 resolutions on this matter, even agreeing to a foolish, last-ditch return of the overblown inspections teams to allow Saddam one last chance at compliance. Only at the last meteorological moment to launch military action prior to Ramadan did George Bush finally give the order that finally initiated action. When action did come, it came with forces from the UK, Spain, Australia, and Poland, and if Kinsley and the Democrats can't spot these countries on "a medium-sized world map," then it explains why Dean hasn't heard that the Soviet Union went out of business twelve years ago.
If you agree with Kinsley that the war in Iraq was a mistake and a failure, then you would have to agree with his conclusion: Dean is the only candidate to lead the Democrats out of the morass. If you think that it was a good idea to liberate 24 million people from a genocidal tyrant that multiple intelligence agencies and numerous sources insist supported terrorist organizations in general and al-Qaeda in particular, then the mistake of these Democrats is not in authorizing the military action, but in pandering to their left wing by running away from their vote.
Further, Kinsley's defeatist hysteria reminds us of the dominating American response to attack over the last three decades: to cut and run whenever we suffered any casualties at all, even in victory. It took several years to pacify, restructure, and launch democratic institutions in Germany and Japan after WWII, and Germany had only been 12 years removed from liberal democracy in 1945. Iraq has never known liberal democracy, and except for Turkey, neither has its neighbors. We never hear an argument from critics that the goal is not worthy; we only hear that the road is too difficult, scant months into the effort. Kinsley and his brethren on the left appear to favor freedom only when it is convenient, and human rights only when it costs nothing. Neither exist under those conditions, a lesson the baby-boomer, TV-movie generation has never understood and probably never will.
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