To mark the third anniversary of launching the war to depose Saddam Hussein, the manufacturers of the "news" have established their usual template, Realistic Media vs. Pollyanna Bush. It's not pessimism versus optimism, but reality versus hallucination.
How, then, do we greet the bleats of liberals as they wildly overstate the alleged utter awfulness of the war situation? On CNN, Time writer Joe Klein, one of the nation's leading worshipers of Bill Clinton, declared to Anderson Cooper, "Rumsfeld ran the most criminally incompetent military campaign, you know, in the last 100 years, perhaps in American history."
Was Klein making a display of chutzpah, or just of his own historical incompetence? How many bungled military campaigns can we assign, just for starters, to Klein's hero Clinton? The bombing of the El Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan? The "Black Hawk Down" fiasco and withdrawal in Somalia? What about Jimmy Carter's failed hostage rescue that fell apart in the desert and humiliated an entire nation in the eyes of the world?
Klein might protest that the number of deaths from those campaigns doesn't compete with the scale of Iraq war losses. Fine. What about Vietnam? Klein looks especially silly in rewinding back 100 years, 200 years in his emphasis on unparalleled military incompetence. Has he never read about the Civil War?
Thank God the likes of Joe Klein weren't around 60 years ago. Historian Victor Davis Hanson has written that the Normandy campaign in 1944, seen today as so smashingly successful, would be painted as full of dramatic military blunders that were costing the lives of 2,500 American soldiers daily. Would Joe Klein like to insist that Gen. Eisenhower or Gen. Marshall should have resigned in disgrace?
But in terms of wild-eyed exaggeration against Rumsfeld, Klein actually was a piker. Days later on CNN's "The Situation Room," Paul Begala, who bows toward Chappaqua on a prayer mat about as often as Klein, spouted his new enthusiasm for an obscure professor named Martin van Creveld, whom he called "one of the most esteemed military historians in the world." Quoting this learned professor, Begala proclaimed, "This is the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C. sent his legions into Germany and lost them." (Unsurprisingly, James Carville used the very same professor and the very same quote the following morning on NBC's "Today.")