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Ignatius' Iraq Problem

(Guest Post by Big Tent Democrat)

WaPo columnist David Ignatius pens a column entitled The Big Question the Dems are Ducking:

This should be the Democrats' moment, if they can translate the national anger over Iraq into a coherent strategy for that country. But with a few notable exceptions, the Democrats are mostly ducking the hard question of what to do next. They act as if all those America-hating terrorists will evaporate back into the sands of Anbar province if the United States pulls out its troops. Alas, that is not the case. That is the problem with Iraq -- it is not an easy mistake to fix.

Here is David Ignatius' problem, his support for the Iraq Debacle in 2003:

My own gut tells me that this is a war worth fighting. But I'm bothered that America still hasn't had the kind of broad national debate that would provide a solid foundation of public support for sending U.S. troops into battle.

No credibility. More on the flip.

In an April 2006 column, Ignatius tried to explain his mistakes:

In a sense, the media were victims of their own professionalism. Because there was little criticism of the war from prominent Democrats and foreign policy analysts, journalistic rules meant we shouldn't create a debate on our own. And because major news organizations knew the war was coming, we spent a lot of energy in the last three months before the war preparing to cover it -- arranging for reporters to be embedded with military units, purchasing chemical and biological weapons gear and setting up forward command posts in Kuwait that mirrored those of the U.S. military.

But Ignatius has a problem. In January 2003, he wrote this:

[General Wesley] Clark's argument, in simple terms, is that unless the United States can bring a strong coalition into a war against Iraq, it may put itself in greater danger. The chief threat to U.S. security right now is al Qaeda, he argues. Disarming Iraq is important too, he says, but it's not the most urgent task.

The Bush administration's mistake in Iraq, says Clark, is one of priorities. "They picked war over law. They picked a unilateralist approach over a multilateral approach. They picked conventional forces over special-operations forces. And they picked Saddam Hussein as a target over Osama bin Laden."

Clark worries that the Iraq policy is fatally flawed because it's likely to create new recruits for America's main enemy -- the Islamic fundamentalists who destroyed the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. He recalls a military dictum from his days as commander of the Army's National Training Center: "There are only two kinds of plans -- ones that might work and ones that won't work. You have to avoid a plan with a fatal flaw."

. . . Clark doesn't doubt that overwhelming U.S. military power would quickly crush Saddam Hussein's relatively weak forces. Indeed, he gave a dazzling briefing for global leaders at the World Economic Forum here this week about how U.S.-led forces will move toward Baghdad. His concern, instead, is about what comes after -- "the unpredictability of consequences," as he puts it. Clark fears that the new dangers generated by a war in Iraq might outweigh any gains from disarming Saddam Hussein.

Clark cites three tests that the administration must meet before going to war. "First, are you sure you won't destroy the international institutions you say you are supporting, and thereby undermine the war against terror? Second, can you win the war quickly and smoothly, avoiding the collateral damage that would make you lose while winning? And third, in the aftermath, can you prevent the growth of al Qaeda and control the weapons of mass destruction that may be hidden?"

If the Bush administration can answer "yes" to all three, then the Iraq war will succeed, Clark says. But he isn't convinced.

Ignatius chose to believe and follow Bush, Cheney and Wolfowitz instead of Clark. He is disqualified as an expert on what to do in Iraq in my judgment because of this. He simply does not have the judgment and intelligence to discuss the issues cogently. To the sidelines with you Ignatius. Don't worry about what the Democrats might do. Try and figure out how you got it so spectacularly wrong first and explain to us why you did. Once you do that, then maybe we can talk.

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  • Re: Ignatius' Iraq Problem (none / 0) (#1)
    by pigwiggle on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 02:43:10 PM EST
    It's a good question, irrespective of Ignatius' credibility. Dismissing a point based on the proponent's credibility is the classic logical fallacy ad hominem. So anyway, the Democrats should be able to capitalize on the Iraq debacle. I know what the Republicans propose to do; more of the same. But what exactly is the Democratic strategy if they are given the wheel in 06 and 08? They have done well in pointing out the problems in the prosecution of the war, but opposition isn't a policy. Not that I think they need a coherent plan to use Iraq to win back congress and the execs. It *would be* nice to see them ready to hit the ground running rather than preparing excuses for the next six years. No one particularly cares that you have been handed a mess when you asked for it.

    Re: Ignatius' Iraq Problem (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 04:51:53 PM EST
    pig: I disagree with your premise - to wit, Ignatius's credibility is not germane to the question. It is critically germane, as the question and the conclusions are opinions of Ignatius on Iraq, and what will and will not work, and what the opposition should say about Iraq to be credible. Ignatius argues that Dems are not credible on Iraq because they do not agree with him that we must stay in Iraq. It is Ignatius' opinion that that is so. It is not an objective fact. What value should we place on Ignatius' opinion on this matter? In my view none, as he was spectacularly wrong on the Iraq Debacle notwithstanding having the benefit of General Clark's spot on analysis. The reality is that the value of Ignatius' views on Iraq is a subjective question, not an objective one. What he believes we must do on the Iraq issue must necessarily be viewed from the perspective of his track record and his inadequate explanations for his mistakes. Before demanding answers from anybody, Ignatius must provide some of his own.