WINNING THE WAR….Anne Applebaum, no squishy peacenik she, today echoes Wes Clark’s words in last month’s Washington Monthly. Seemingly more in sorrow than in anger, she suggests that veteran Cold Warriors of all people should have known better than to think the United States could remake the Middle East on its own. Today, though, she’s older and wiser about the current occupant of the White House and his team:
I had taken it for granted that the administration’s big hitters–Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and, to some extent, even Powell–were united, if nothing else, by one common experience: All had been staunch opponents of the Soviet Union. That meant not only that they’d been right about the cold war, but that they knew that we had won it only partly thanks to U.S. military strength.
….The war on terrorism cannot be a narrow American or American-Israeli military struggle, or we will lose it. Like the cold war, the war on terrorism will be over when moderate Muslims abandon the radicals and join us.
Mistakenly, I assumed this was what the president meant when he talked, in that vague sort of way, about “democracy in the Middle East.” The fact that he was vague didn’t bother me, since this president is vague about a lot of things. But I should have been warier since, in this case, his vagueness was not just a personality tic or a speech impediment, but a sign of a deep lack of seriousness.
This is precisely what war supporters have been so deeply wrong about for the past two years: not the odiousness of Saddam Hussein’s regime or the necessity of combatting radical Islam, but the idea that Bush’s quick and dirty invasion of Iraq was a serious response to it. I know my readers hate to be reminded of this ? and hell, so do I ? but I supported the Iraq invasion until it finally became clear that Bush wasn’t even faintly serious about democracy in the Middle East, consensus building among our allies, or any of the other long-term strategies necessary to win this war.
Rather, his plan was just hawkery run wild. Bush wanted to “prove we were serious,” but the reality was always exactly the opposite. He’s never been willing to do the hard work of actually trying to win this struggle, and that’s why he’s not the right leader for the war on terror.
If you’re conservative, read Applebaum’s entire piece and think about what this ardent anti-communist and Cold Warrior is saying. If you’re liberal, read Wes Clark’s longer take on the same theme. They’re both saying the same thing, and they’re both right.