The problem with the antiwar elite -- and by that I mean most of the Democratic presidential candidates and their assorted liberal "wise men" -- is that political attacks on the president's war on Islamic terrorism won't always be enough to satisfy them. It's just a matter of time before taking shots at the president (Howard Dean), nixing the White House's $87 billion funding request to stabilize Iraq (John Edwards, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich), and penning essays for The New York Review of Books entitled "Iraq: What Went Wrong" (Wesley Clark), will seem evasive at best, even obstructionist. Soon, the burning question Democrats must answer will be not what they think is wrong with George W. Bush's policy, but what they, as members of the antiwar elite, would do in his place.
This is a tough question. It forces members of the antiwar elite to admit they would have left Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime in place -- not exactly a surefire policy to make either Iraq or the world safe for democracy. And now that most of the Democratic presidential candidates have come out against the president's $87 billion funding request to stabilize and democratize the terror-torn, debt-laden country, they are taking themselves and their party to a new extreme. Indeed, being anti-Bush and antiwar, Democrats now pack a double political whammy that, in effect, bolsters Baathists and vitiates victory. And it leaves the American Left prone to increasingly weird contradictions.
Writing in The New York Review of Books, the ever-evolving antiwar candidate Wesley Clark excoriates the president at length over everything he thinks "went" wrong in Iraq -- as if lecturing on ancient history, not unfinished business -- only to throw out this startling bit: "All else being equal, the region and the Iraqi people are better off with Saddam gone." So what is it, a reader may wonder, that fundamentally and philosophically "went wrong" here? In the same magazine issue, antiwar historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. castigates the president for a foreign policy of "doctrinaire unilateralism and moralistic arrogance," before pausing to observe that were the administration to have followed the historian's own recommendations, Saddam Hussein "would probably still be in power in Baghdad." (Probably?) Schlesinger adds: "This is an unsettling thought for opponents of the war."