Victor Davis Hanson unloads:
What is lost, then, in the present pre-election hysteria and the repositioning on Iraq, is that there were never any good American choices in the Middle East. The present ones in Iraq and Afghanistan came about only from 9/11 and a general consensus that the failures of the past had led to that mass murder — and thus a new course of action was needed to replace both the liberal appeasement and conservative realism that had worked in the interest of bin Ladenism.
Legitimate debate is necessary about the mistakes in Iraq, as it is about the blunders of every war. But before writing off Iraq as lost, unnecessary, or a result of some such conspiracy, we had better ask ourselves whether a return to the sermonizing of Carterism or Clintonian diplomacy by focus group and straw polls — or even cynical horse-trading of Jim Baker — is what we really want.
And he poses a tough question:
So here are questions to ponder as reactionaries yearn for a pre-Bush past. Imagine: One of the various foiled terrorist plots — a Fort Dix slaughter, a JFK airport attack, or the suicide teams ABC news claims are headed our way from Afghanistan — succeeds after 2008. Thousands of Americans die.
What does President Clinton or Obama do? Draft a tough federal indictment? Ask for a U.N. resolution condemning such violence? Count on a unified response with NATO, battle-seasoned after its heroic offensives in Afghanistan? Hope for help from the EU rapid-response force? Bomb the source where the jihadists trained (Gaza?, Pakistan? Syria? Iran?) — but only from 30,000 feet, and, as in 1998, without U.N. or congressional approval? Work with the Saudis and Egyptians and Mr. Abbas to curb such atypical zealots? Have John Edwards trot the globe to use his courtroom flair to win over allies?
The grass is always greener on the other side. It's far easier to criticize than offer a viable alternative. What would a Harry Reid foreign policy look like? A neutered American military, and State Department with even less assertiveness, no doubt.