Chances For A True Iraq Debate: Zip
I like to think the answer is no, and there are reasons to support it: 9/11, Saddam's long history of brutality and his quest for WMDs, and most of all, the different goals. Clinton's was to stop a conflict; Bush's is democratization as the only way to stop jihad. On the other hand, I can't deny that rank politics can be behind high-flying defenses. That's the point Kurt Anderson, who doesn't like Bush and thinks the war is a complete disaster, makes in New York Magazine:
It's refreshing to think that thousands of anti-war New Yorkers read Anderson's piece, and I hope they're pondering it today. We're just a few weeks away from Gen. Patreus' report on the status of the war, and it would be a fine thing indeed if America were in a position to take in that information honestly and openly, without the political strutting that is so destructive of effective war policy.
It was our weakness for childlike, black-and-white explanation that got us into the Iraq debacle. To the neocons and Bush, the task at hand was simple, like a fairy tale: Saddam was a monster, and destroying his government would be easy, after which the liberated Iraqis could build a friendly democracy. No real thought was given to all that might go wrong. What counted was the beautiful big idea.
The antiwar left’s conviction now that everything will be fine if we simply ship home all our troops is born of a similar impulse, a wishful naïveté so convinced of its own righteousness that it refuses to imagine vast unintended consequences, let alone to anguish over them. Little thought is given to what might happen after we leave. What if, instead of 100 murdered Iraqi civilians a day, the number is in the thousands? What happens if ethnic cleansing becomes state policy? And the Saudis intervene to protect their Sunni brothers from slaughter? And Turkey invades the Kurdish provinces? What counts is the beautiful, big idea.
The neocons and the lefties have in common a shrugging callousness to the horrors their simple plans unintentionally enable in Iraq: eliminating the Baathist dictatorship uncorked a civil war, and eliminating U.S. troops may well turn it into a much bigger one—but it’s the Iraqis to blame for the chaos and murder, not us.
But with the report coming out just a few months before the first big primaries, that's not going to happen. What Anderson refers to as "the great pseudo-debate" on Iraq will continue, as politicians debate their issues in Iraq clothing, and we need a real debate on the courses ahead, and the consequences of each.
The GOP candidates, caught between their the razor teeth of public opinion and their professed strong belief in the cause, are better equipped for honesty in the debate. The Dems, wary of the vicious attacks from the anti-war Left and having no fondness for anything Bushian, won't be able to say an honest word.
And that's a shame.
hat-tip: Real Clear Politics