Dick Cheney: The Perfect Symbol Of Conservative National Security Incompetence

CheneyNewsweek editor John Meacham — the same guy who insisted that Barack Obama’s election as president proved that America was a “center-right” country — thinks that a Dick Cheney run for the presidency would be great for America. Meacham that an Obama-Cheney match-up would “give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way. As John McCain pointed out in the fall of 2008, he is not Bush.”

It is true that John McCain is not, in fact, George W. Bush. But, as this blog spent a lot of time examining during the 2008 campaign, on national security McCain was virtually identical to Bush, except where McCain was more extreme. In that respect, the 2008 election were as clear an adjudication of the George W. Bush years as one could have hoped for. The American people delivered a pretty resounding verdict of “fail.” So now Meacham wants a do-over.

Given that the best case for George W. Bush’s stewardship of U.S national security boils down to: “Hey, we didn’t get attacked again!” it’s not hard to understand why Cheney has chosen to ignore American tradition and bash Bush’s successor at every opportunity, frantically trying to sway the public whose opinion he casually and disdainfully dismissed while in office.

If U.S. security were best served by talking smack on Meet the Press, or delivering pro-torture applause lines to sycophants at the American Enterprise Institute, Dick Cheney could be considered a success. In terms of actual measurable evidence, however, Cheney’s record, and that of the administration he served, is one of staggering incompetence and failure.

One of the worst, and most consequential, of those failures was letting Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden escape from the caves of Tora Bora where U.S. forces and Afghan allies had him cornered in late 2001. A new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee examines various aspects of that failure, the and concludes:

Removing the Al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat. But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide. The failure to finish the job represents a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism, leaving the American people more vulnerable to terrorism, laying the foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan.

Cheney has accused President Obama of “dithering” over a new Afghanistan strategy — a strategy necessitated by Cheney’s and Bush’s failure to get bin Laden, and to commit the necessary resources to finish the job in Afghanistan. It’s enormously important to understand that that failure was not an accident, it was the direct result of a conservative national security ideology that puts more stock in talking “tough” than in actually having an effective policy. Cheney is a prime exponent of that ideology, and the George W. Bush presidency was the definitive demonstration of its intellectual vacuity — something Cheney and his supporters have been, and will continue to be, at great pains to conceal. Frankly, I really doubt Cheney would want to get into a situation where he would have to answer tough questions about his failures, or give the American people another chance to reject his approach to national security.