THE IRAQ DEBATE

Andrew Sullivan —  Sep 21 2004 @ 11:02am

Jonah Goldberg’s column today strikes me as excellent – honest, candid, and largely persuasive. It reminds me why he’s easily the best conservative writer of his generation – because he’s immune to the kind of ideological cocoon that can prevent others from seeing things clearly. And because of that, it’s striking that his ultimate choice for Bush in this war is premised almost entirely on Kerry:

So sure, Bush hasn’t done everything right – never mind perfectly – in Iraq. Churchill didn’t conduct World War II perfectly every time either. Dunkirk wasn’t the sort of thing that happens when the war goes swimmingly. But Bush gets all of this. John Kerry doesn’t, in my opinion. Or, to be more accurate, John Kerry “gets” everything and therefore nothing. If the choice were between Bush and a better commander-in-chief, I might not vote for Bush. But that’s not the choice, now is it?

Hard to dissent. There are two Kerrys in my mind (and about a few hundred other ones in Kerry’s). One is Carter-Redux: former military peacenik, paralyzed by indecision, unable to win a peace, let alone a war. The other is the Honorable Bore: the establishment guy who won’t be terrible and whose steady, consensus-ridden hand we might need after the recklessness of young Hal. I’m torn between the two. I really do worry that Bush is out of his depth in this conflict, and that his handling of Iraq these past twelve months essentially disqualifies him from re-election. But better the devil you know? If the war was the only issue – and the fiscal lunacy, social intolerance and institutional arrogance were not also in play, I might have to swallow hard and go for Bush. But a vote for wimping out in Fallujah, bigger government and the social policy of James Dobson? Please. Bush’s crude, see-no-problems campaign has also done a lot to persuade me that he’s not up to the job. Lowry sums up why Kerry’s new strategy is not crazy. I do the same in TNR. I’m glad we’re talking.