Via Atrios (too swamped today to write down my own thoughts, but this is the best thing I read this morning), EJ Dionne has the big picture view of the way we entered the Iraq war, what makes it such a gamble, and why the Administration should be held to account for it if we continue crapping out.
"Bush's primary case for war was not that a free Iraq would be a beacon to the Muslim world but that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. If Bush had tried to sell this primarily as a war on behalf of a grand vision of Middle Eastern democracy, most Americans would have balked.As annoying as Bush's public professions of faith in God are to me, it is his faith in the wishful/hopeful speculation of his closest advisors that has put us in a really bad spot.
Still, give Bush the benefit of the doubt again. No matter what the president said before the war, spreading democracy is a good thing. But you had better make it work.
Unfortunately, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had his own pet theory. American military power is so impressive, he insisted, that we can now win wars with fewer troops -- far fewer than Colin Powell demanded in 1991 for throwing Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
So Bush pursued one radical theory about planting democracy in Iraq and doubled our nation's bet by pursuing another radical theory that underestimated the number of troops we needed to create the order essential for democracy. Then he went more radical still. Unlike his father, this President Bush said we could do without many of our traditional allies or Arab support. And when Turkey denied our troops the chance to invade from Iraq's north -- those troops might have pacified the now violently unstable regions of the country -- Bush did not pause or delay. His invasion schedule would be the schedule.
Now Bush has the nerve to say that those Americans concerned that Iraq might turn into Vietnam are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The Vietnam analogy, he said Tuesday, "sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy."
No, Mr. President, what sends the wrong message is when our country doesn't put enough troops on the ground in the first place to do the job right. It doesn't help that you were unwilling to make clear in advance that bringing democracy to Iraq would involve a long struggle and a great expenditure of American treasure. It doesn't make our troops more secure for a president to divide the country by trashing his critics as unpatriotic. And it doesn't build support for a great experiment in democratization when the president fails to explain how he is going to win the thing."