Possibly because the “good things” happening in Iraq turn out to be sandcastles: “inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.”
We reacted to 9/11 by freaking out and invading one too many countries, creating more terrorists. With the ranks of terrorists growing — amid evolving biotechnology and loose nukes — we could within a decade see terrorism on a scale that would make us forget any restraint we had learned from the Iraq war’s outcome. If 3,000 deaths led to two wars, how many wars would 300,000 deaths yield? And how many new terrorists?
Or, by contrast, and Hillary Clinton and John Edwards:
Obama said he first would assure there was an effective emergency response and not a repeat of what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
He then turned his attention to the issue of intelligence. “The second thing is to make sure that we’ve got good intelligence, A) to find out that we don’t have other threats and attacks potentially out there, and, B) to find out, do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.”
He went on to say that what the United States must avoid at such a moment is alienating the world community “based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast,” adding that “we’re not going to defeat terrorists on our own.”
His answer appeared shaped by the reaction, at home and abroad, to President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, and he was suggesting clearly that he would not follow that model in confronting a terrorist attack.
But in rapid succession, former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and Clinton offered rather different responses, sounding a far more aggressive tone in their determination to retaliate and unequivocal in their willingness to use force.
I sometimes face some skepticism from people about whether the foreign policy differences between the Democrats really matter. After all, people say, in the wake of Iraq nobody’s likely to just start up a new war for no reason at all. This is probably true. But the essence of national security policy is that the environment is always changing in unpredictable ways. It’s very doubtful that the Bush administration ever would have invaded Iraq had 9/11 not created the political moment in which it could be done. It’s very important that, if the country suffers a terrorist attack under the next administration, that the country be run by a group of people who’ll respond intelligently rather than by a group of people who’ll think Priority Number One should be lashing out to demonstrate “toughness.” Edwards, I think, mitigated his sins on this question by acting very well on the “war on terror” show of hands. Nobody in this race has really won me over on security questions, but Clinton has consistently managed to accomplish whatever the reverse of that is.
The New York Times reports this morning, to no one’s great surprise, that the Bush administration foresees its “surge” lasting until “well into” 2008.
The Bush administration will not try to assess whether the troop increase in Iraq is producing signs of political progress or greater security until September, and many of Mr. Bush’s top advisers now anticipate that any gains by then will be limited, according to senior administration officials.
In interviews over the past week, the officials made clear that the White House is gradually scaling back its expectations for the government of President Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The timelines they are now discussing suggest that the White House may maintain the increased numbers of American troops in Iraq well into next year.
In early March, the Times reported that Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the day-to-day commander of American forces in Iraq, had recommended in a private memo that Bush’s increased troop levels “be maintained through February 2008.” Odierno also said in January that “even with the additional American troops,” it might take another ‘two or three years‘ for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war.”
Odierno is notable since he was mentioned in the Washington Post’s report on Friday about the growing “split inside the military between younger, mid-career officers and the top brass.” The Post reported that “many majors and lieutenant colonels have privately expressed anger and frustration” with the performance of several generals, “calling them slow to grasp the realities of the war and overly optimistic in their assessments.” Odierno was one of three generals cited by name.
UPDATE: David Kurtz adds:
[This] is a milestone in the Bush Administration’s public spin of the war, marking the first official acknowledgment that the surge and all the attendant fuss were nothing more than an elaborate stop-gap intended to buy time so that the colossal failure of the President’s foreign policy can be pawned off on the next president.