All decent people, in my experience, know that the West ought to take military action against the government of Sudan in order to halt the killings in Darfur. Unfortunately, to the best of my (admittedly limited) ability to figure out, such an intervention would actually be a very bad idea. See Alex de Waal and Brad Plumer on this. The fact that intervention advocates like Eric Reeves seem to mostly be assuming that an intervention force wouldn’t actually need to fight — i.e., that the Sudanese would surrender — strikes me as cause for concern; a classic instance of best-case scenario planning.
Kurt Campbell and Michael O’Hanlon point out that perceptions of which party is good for national security switch around over time, typically in response to events. The current dissilusionment with the wreck Bush has made of things, in other words, offers up a chance for Democrats to shift around the post-Vietnam perception that they’re worse on these things for the long-term. But to seize advantage of the opportunity, Democrats need to try, and outline “the kind of idea-driven agenda, and confident preoccupation with matters of national security that has generally been conceded to the GOP in recent decades.”
I’m not sure exactly what Campbell and O’Hanlon have in mind, but their general take on this quite right. I would particularly emphasize the confident preoccupation point. One of the GOP’s great strengths on the politics of national security over the past five years has, I think, simply been confidence. They act like they expect to win national security debates, and that helps them to win them. Democrats, by contrast, have mostly looked very defensive, a trend that’s waned somewhat but still persist to a remarkable degree. But at this point, absolutely everybody can tell that Bush’s policies have been a disaster. The first step to securing public faith in a Democratic alternative is simply to say that confidently and without self-consciousness.
It’s not as funny as Foley-gate, but the ongoing war in Iraq is, obviously, more significant. The president is running around the country slandering Democrats and lying about their stand on his administration’s illegal surveillance initiative, while telling people the violence in Iraq will be “just a comma” in the history books. Not, obviously, to the 2,700 and growing dead American soldiers. Not to their wives, husbands, and children. Nor to the thousands more maimed or wounded or their families. Nor to the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis and their families and friends. Or, indeed, to those inspired by the war to join radical terrorist groups, or to those who will be the victims of their future crimes.
According to Woodward’s book, Bush says he’ll continue the war in Iraq even if the only ones left supporting him are Laura and their dog. And, presumably, he means it. Loose talk of winning or losing the war is, at this point, irrelevant. The president has defined our war aims in Iraq purely in terms of continuing the war indefinitely. For him, keeping all of these troops over there and handing the whole shitpile off to his successor is success. Nobody else should find that very comforting.