When Bush challenged Keryy last week on what he thought the proper Iraq war policy would have been if we knew then what we know now, I thought Kerry strategically ought to hit this one out of the park. It gives him the perfect opening to attack the war without seeming like an armchair QB or whiner (which his baseline position of “I voted to invade Iraq, true, but I’d have done it much better and stuff” comes off as, in spades).
“I haven’t brought this up yet because I am reluctant to second-guess such serious decisions, but since the President asked, no, I definitely would not have voted to go to war if we knew then what we know now. And that brings us to another question: why is there such a discrepancy between what we thought we knew then, and what turned out to be true? I am afraid that it is because our President made the decision to rely upon bad information provided by untrustworthy political manipulators such as the indicted criminal Chalabi – information that he and his team passed on to those of us on the Intelligence committee, who would never otherwise have voted for this misadventure that’s cost so many young American lives and inflamed our enemies, while not bringing a bit of safety to our homeland.”
Isn’t that the perfect opening for Kerry, as a tactical matter? He can play the regretful victim of a lie, the battle-scarred veteran who knows enough about war to view it as a last, worst resort, undercut Bush’s vociferous claims to be the guarantor of homeland security, etc. And Bush invited him to do it!
And while I emphatically don’t want to re-argue every thread on the Iraq war, pro or con . . . many people would believe that the above answer has the added advantage of being right on grounds of morality and sound foreign/security policy.
What possible reason could Kerry have for passing up this opportunity (unless he truly happens, coincidentally, to agree in sum and substance with the somewhat-attenuated Bush post-hoc rationalization as being a sound basis for war – which if so, is tribute to Kerry’s honesty in admitting that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two on the base issues, but calls into question both Kerry’s judgment and the relevance of his fault-finding from the sidelines on Bush’s conduct of a war that Kerry admits was basically a great thing)?
How was Bush so sure that Kerry would not call him on the very question which has the potential to make Bush look his worst, by inviting the otherwise-‘unfair’ hindsight himself? I’d have thought Bush’s machine would steer him clear of ever explicitly confronting the question of “Was it worth it even though our original rationales largely evaporated?” given how hard they’ve tried to elide the issues to make it seem as though “ridding the country of a madman” or “neutralizing a regime that had the potential to activate WMD programs” were, in fact, the original casus belli.
Is Kerry simply a nearsighted naif who truly believes that his four micro-level, procedural, reaarranging-deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic, questions, would make a difference as to the underlying rightness of the war, its winnability, or the likelihood that Americans would support it? Does anyone in the American heartland who regrets the war regret it principally because GWB didn’t build a sufficient coalition with the Russians and French in order to pursue the U.S.'s(admittedly incorrect) allegations? Would domestic dissidents be happy about the foreign adventure if they were confident that Bush had gone into it with a good sound plan to “win the peace?”