– Defense Secretary Robert Gates, during congressional hearings yesterday. “Later, asked about reaching the right balance between American and Iraqi forces, he told the panel he was ‘no expert on military matters.‘”
The American public overwhelmingly opposes Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq and the White House blames the media. Yesterday on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Tony Snow vowed to fight a “new media war” to combat the coverage:
HH: All right, yesterday, the President also mentioned that there will be lots of carnage on television screens. Is the administration, and especially the Pentagon, prepared to fight the new media war when that starts to happen, Tony Snow?
TS: We’ve been fighting it. I mean, it’s not that it has started to happen, it’s been going on for some time.
Snow specifically cited right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin, who is currently embedded in Iraq, as a soldier for truth in the “media war”:
What is interesting, Hugh, and you know this as well as anybody else, you’re also starting to see little glimmers of guys like Michael Yon and others who get over there and they basically embed themselves in Iraq, and Michelle Malkin’s over there now.
Several times during the interview, Tony Snow referenced Malkin’s work on the Jamil Hussein “story.”
Michelle Malkin has been obsessed in recent months claiming that Hussein — an Iraqi policeman cited as a source by the Associated Press in a story about the burning of six people during a sectarian attack — does not exist. The Iraqi government recently debunked the conspiracy theory, acknowledging that the AP’s source was in fact a police officer in Iraq.
Jason Zengerle shoots back on the question of the Charlotte Bobcats’ draft picks agreeing with many commenters here that Raymond Felton and Sean May are pretty good basketball players. And so they are. The point, however, still stands.
Via Klein and Hayes an examination indicates that pundits who were wrong about Iraq have prospered over and above those who got things right. Which is not, of course, a surprise to me. I’ve felt from time to time that my current anti-war views are an impediment to career objectives, but never that past pro-war views have been a problem.
The oddity of the emerging GOP presidential field is that it’s dominated by candidates — John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney — who are, in one way or another, importantly unorthodox conservatives. Consequently, they need to hew very closely to hawk dogma in national security policy to prove their bona fides even at the moment where political support for the hawkish position is collapsing. Sam Brownback, a distinctly second-tier contender but one who benefits from being a committed social conservative with standard conservative economic views, is taking the chance to be the exception and resist the urge to surge. Ross Douthat comments as do Andrew Sullivan and (with bonus analysis!) Noam Scheiber who indicates that a pretty large number of social conservatives are anti-surge.
Of course, the Republican dove we liberals want to see is Chuck Hagel, but for a whole bunch of reasons Brownback is a more likely contender. The only thing I would add to this analysis is that, as best I can tell, ever since the war began in March 2003 it’s been the case that any given dovish position looks better and better as time goes on. When thinking about positioning yourself for primaries that won’t be held until a year or more from now, it’s worth keeping in mind that things will almost certainly look worse 9-15 months from now than they do today.
Jim Webb is really one of the most exciting things to happen to our politics recently; the personification of potentially worthy electoral trends who’s managed to pull it off not by embracing militarism but by showing that good sense in national security policy can be fused to personality and cultural attributes other than, say, mine. And so it’s good to see him in particular asking the Secretary of State the question of the day: “Is it the position of this administration that it possesses the authority to take unilateral action against Iran in the absence of a direct threat without congressional approval?” Rice’s reply:
Senator, I’m really loathe to get into questions of the president’s authorities without a rather more clear understanding of what we are actually talking about. So let me answer you, in fact, in writing. I think that would be the best thing to do.
Now, back in the real world, it’s clear that this particular administration has never acknowledged any limits to presidential authority. It’s also worth saying that most recent administrations have claimed the authority to launch military actions without specific congressional authorization, so a presidential assertion of power in this regard would be less unusual than some of the other claims it’s made. What’s more, in light of yesterday’s consulate attack I think it’s pretty clear that Bush feels free to wade into whatever kind of gray areas he likes. Still, it’s crucial to get the administration on record here so people can begin considering countermeasures.
David Shorr reminds us that there’s more to be said about Jeffrey Goldberg’s New Yorker article than I’d gotten to previously. For example, Goldberg notes that “Polls also show that a sizable minority of Democrats now feel that the war in Afghanistan was a mistake–thirty five per cent.” Peter Beinart cites a similar poll to likewise make the point that liberals have become crazed peaceniks. Goldberg would, however, do well to provide some analysis of the substantive question.
From where I sit, this comes down to a slightly semantic issue. If by “the war in Afghanistan” we mean something like the general idea of a war aimed at deposing the Taliban leadership and killing or capturing key al-Qaeda figures then, no, the war wasn’t a mistake. If, however, by “the war in Afghanistan” we mean the actually existing war in Afghanistan then it clearly does look like a mistake. After all, to a remarkable degree the administration managed not to accomplish its objectives. Most al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders survived, they continue to enjoy safe haven in portions of Afghanistan and Pakistan (albeit smaller portions than they once did), and for a couple of years now the Taliban has been successfully reasserting itself in its core areas while the Karzai government is failing to stabilize or control any substantial portion of the country.
Now, if a pollster ever calls me and asks “was the war in Afghanistan a mistake” I’ll say “no” because I understand how these things are interpreted. But I think there’s a clear sense in which it was a mistake. Certainly, mistakes were made. I think this Project on Defense Alternatives report on Operation Enduring Freedom ultimately goes too far in terms of pure Monday morning quarterbacking but it certainly raises a lot of good issues and I don’t see how anyone could deny that very serious mistakes have been made in Afghanistan that have substantially undermined the rationale for the war.
President Bush’s address at Fort Benning, GA, yesterday, “received a less enthusiastic reception than has been the case on his past visits to military bases to promote his Iraq policy.” The 300 soldiers who joined Bush were prohibited from talking with reporters afterward, to “ensure that there would be no discordant notes.”
U.S. troops “launched two raids on Iranian targets in Iraq yesterday,” detaining five Iranians and confiscating “vast amounts of documents and computer data.” U.S. officials said the raids “are part of a new U.S. intelligence and military operation launched last month against Iran.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “has quietly backed away from his pre-election demands that the White House turn over potentially embarrassing documents relating to its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.”
Al-Qaeda is “strengthening itself across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe” and cells are “rebuilding their strength” in Pakisan, according to outgoing National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.
75: Percentage of Americans who think President Bush should have to get congressional approval before he escalates the war in Iraq, according to a new CBS News poll. Read more
MSNBC: “An explosion ripped through the U.S. embassy compound in central Athens on Friday, a police source said.”