Robin Wright’s analysis of Kerry’s Iraq plan in today’s Washington Post has a weirdly disembodied feel to it. She writes as though Kerry and Bush were participating in an essay contest about the future of some hypothetical war zone called “Iraq,” proclaiming Kerry’s proposals marginally better but really no different than Bush’s. (Kerry gets a B+, Bush a B-.)
But the point isn’t that Kerry’s proposals only have a slightly better chance of success. It’s that Bush’s poor judgment and total incompetence have arranged it so that no proposal has a very good chance of success. Assessing the two candidate’s positions outside that context is a totally useless exercise.
Pundits have been kvetching for months now that Kerry hasn’t produced a gift-wrapped miracle that definitively solves all our problems in Iraq. But that’s just not in the cards anymore. Iraq is such a mess that there’s nothing left except choosing the least worst of a bunch of bad choices.
In any case, Kerry has now said what he’d do in Iraq, and while it might not be a slam dunk, it’s surely better than George Bush’s apparent plan to keep doing what he’s been doing all along (“stay the course”). What Bush has been doing all along is exactly what got us where we are today, and practically anything would be better than that.
And that’s really what this is all about. Iraq is going to be a big problem no matter who’s president next year, but the real question is: what happens next? There are certainly going to be serious, unforeseen foreign policy problems during the next four years, and who do you trust to handle them best? The team that brought you Iraq and continues to believe that they’ve handled it just fine, or someone else?
I’d prefer not to see any more foreign policy crises handled the way Iraq was handled. Unfortunately, common sense tells us that’s exactly what we’ll get if George Bush is reelected: more Iraqs.