The mistakes that led to last week’s elections – and the errors that seem likely to flow from them – would be hysterically funny if they weren’t so deadly serious. Under different circumstances (say, in a novel or a play), the script might be described as a comedy of errors. Unfortunately, this is no work of fiction. It amounts to a tragedy of errors, one which, if left to run its course, will afflict this country and its people for years to come.
For starters, the Bush Administration made an inexplicable and tragic mistake with respect to its campaign management of the Iraq issue. It was predictable that the election would be heavily influenced by public discontent over the prospects for that conflict. Yet, neither the President nor his surrogates mounted a robust and sustained challenge to what amounted to an endlessly repeated “Big Lie” – namely, that the “war in Iraq” was an elective and unnecessary one, launched on the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that did not, in fact, exist and, therefore, in the absence of any real threat to this country.
Typically, proponents of this line relied upon the findings of the Iraq Survey Group (not to be confused with the Iraq Study Group, about which more will be said in a moment). Altogether lost amidst the much-ballyhooed headlines that the Survey Group discovered “No WMDs” was its uncovering of an inconvenient fact: At the time of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Saddam Hussein had active, albeit low-level, production lines for both chemical and biological agents. He also had plans to ramp up such production once sanctions were lifted – a prospect that was prevented only by the Iraqi tyrant’s forcible overthrow.
Worse still, according to the Iraq Survey Group, Saddam’s planning envisioned placing toxic chemical and biological agents in aerosol cans and perfume sprayers for shipment to the United States and Europe. Simply put, the Iraqi dictator had in mind precisely what President Bush was worried about – and preemptively acted to prevent: the use of WMD in terrorist attacks against the U.S. and other freedom-loving nations. In the absence of such information, the American people were understandably susceptible to arguments that it was unnecessary to liberate Iraq.A second error flowed from the first: Iraq was widely portrayed in the 2006 campaign as an isolated event, unrelated to a wider, indeed global, war for the Free World. Although President Bush personally challenged this assumption – as did, to varying degrees, members of his senior team, the election ultimately was defined, and its outcome determined, by those who believed the United States could safely abandon the Iraqi people. The only real question was a disagreement between advocates of immediate U.S. surrender and champions of a slower retreat under some sort of political cover.
The Administration’s inability to argue more effectively that the stakes preclude both of these options seems to have reflected yet another error: the growing influence in its ranks of those like former Secretary of State James Baker and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group he co-chairs with former Rep. Lee Hamilton. These establishment foreign policy types claim to be “realists” – yet they advocate prescriptions that have no realistic chance whatsoever of durable success.
Most especially, Messrs. Baker, Hamilton and – until recently – Robert Gates, the man President Bush nominated last week to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, believe that the United States can and should negotiate with terrorists, like the Iranian and Syrian regimes, over the future of Iraq. They are even prepared to argue that Israel’s security must be further eroded in order to lubricate this fool’s-errand.
These flawed judgments, like that involved in dispatching in the face of the enemy the much-maligned Rumsfeld, has compounded the dangers we face, not alleviated them. One need look no further than the public exultation of al Qaeda in Iraq and the mullahocracy in Tehran at the perceived rejection at the polls of Mr. Bush’s approach, the ascendancy of Democrats determined to effect “strategic redeployments” from Iraqi soil and Don Rumsfeld’s departure.
The United States is surely at no less risk of violence at the hands of Islamofascist operatives than is Great Britain. The latter’s vulnerable posture was chillingly described last week by Dame Eliza Manningham Buller, head of Britain’s domestic intelligence unit, MI5. She said her agency was monitoring roughly 30 active terrorist plots involving some 200 groups with over 1600 adherents. Dame Eliza described the threat as “serious” and “growing” and warned that future attacks may involve “chemicals, bacteriological agents, radioactive materials or even nuclear technology.”
Yet, in this country, the President is evidently heeding the council of defeatists. The FBI (among other agencies) is consorting with, and singing the praises of, deeply problematic Islamist organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations. And incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is showing her true colors – and her disdain for the moderate and conservative Democrats whose victory gave her the chamber’s gavel – by favoring the darling of the anti-war left, Jack Murtha, over Stenny Hoyer for Majority Leader, and the radical, anti-military and once-impeached judge Alcee Hastings over Jane Harman for chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
If the implications of these cumulative errors were not so grave, they would be hilarious. But this tragedy of errors is no laughing matter.