Globe Columnist Gets It Right On Iraq

07/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Even with all the Iraq War criticism out there, it is rare to find a writer who manages to get it as right as Andrew J. Bacevich does in today's Boston Globe. The key paragraph:

Bush's harshest critics, left liberals as well as traditional conservatives, have repeatedly called attention to this record. That criticism has yet to garner mainstream political traction. Throughout the long primary season, even as various contenders in both parties argued endlessly about Iraq, they seemed oblivious to the more fundamental questions raised by the Bush years: whether global war makes sense as an antidote to terror, whether preventive war works, whether the costs of "global leadership" are sustainable, and whether events in Asia rather than the Middle East just might determine the course of the 21st century.

Too often, the Iraq War debate has tended to get bogged down in whether or not the so-called "surge" is working, and, if so, doesn't this redeem the Bush presidency. This is clearly where McCain would like to take the debate, but it's a classic "forest-for-the-trees" moment. The basis for the Iraq War was not to use it as a means to demonstrate that President Bush, after creating a situation of increased sectarian violence in Iraq, could successfully conceive a means to temporarily curb that violence. Rather, the Iraq War was fought on the basis of it being first a pre-emptive response to a great and gathering threat to our national security, and later, a means of executing a larger, more insane, neo-conservative vision of the "domino theory," where our incursion into Iraq would bring all of the other bad actors in the region into line...ponies and democracy and theme parks to follow hard upon. As it turned out, there was no imminent threat to our national security, and the incursion only managed to embolden those bad regional actors (with the added bonus of offering al Qaeda a critical avenue for survival and reconstitution).

Matt Yglesias, to whom this item owes a hat tip, has a book I've constantly pimped on HuffPo's readers that explains all of this in greater detail than I can here, but I'd follow Matt up by pointing out that as great as it is to have General Wesley Clark out on the stump criticizing McCain for his lack of judgement, it's a pity that Clark isn't up to the task of articulating this point as well as Bacevich does here. The ability to do so would have likely spared Clark no end of grief.