FIRING BACK

Glenn Reynolds seems to think that my criticism of the Iraq war is purely negative criticism. He cites my previous writing back in May that

There are also many valid criticisms of the occupation. But I have yet to read any cogent criticism that offers any better future plan than the one president Bush outlined Monday night. John Kerry’s plaintive cries to “internationalize” the transition are so vacuous they barely merit attention. The transition is already being run by the U.N.; very few countries have the military capacity to cooperate fully with the coalition, and few want to; quicker elections would be great, but very difficult to pull off on a national level before the end of the year. So what are Bush’s opponents proposing? More troops now? But wouldn’t that undercut the message of transferring sovereignty to the Iraqis? A sudden exit of all troops? But no one – apart from right-wing and leftwing extremists – thinks that’s a wise move. Giving a future Iraqi government a veto power over troop activities? Done, according to Blair. The truth is: Bush’s plan is about as good as we’re likely to get. And deposing a dictator after decades of brutal rule could never have led immediately to insta-democracy. . . .
What I’m saying, I guess, is that as long as the anti-war critics continue relentless negativism without any constructive alternative, they will soon lose the debate. Americans want to know how to move this war forward, not why we shouldn’t have started it in the first place. Right now, the president has the best plan for making this work. What does anyone else have?

Well, yes. I stand by every word. But things have moved on since then, haven’t they? The plan I outlined is now Kerry’s plan as well. (In fact, it’s closer to Kerry’s original plan than Bush’s.) And the insurgency has gained more traction and more manpower since May. And when we are facing an electoral decision six months later, criticism is anything but negative. My constructive point is that a new pro-war president will move things forward, and that the incumbent has proven himself incompetent. Time to hold someone accountable, I’d say. Glenn says he expected much worse. But did he expect no WMDs? Did he expect Colin Powell’s U.N. speech to be revealed as a tissue of untruths? Did he expect Abu Ghraib? Has Glenn ever fully come to terms with any of that? And the reason we all expected much worse from the invasion is that, in retrospect, we misread Saddam’s war-plan. He was far smarter than we were. We expected a brutal conventional battle. Saddam planned a strategic retreat and then an insurgent regrouping. And we were completely unprepared for it. The question is: why were we so unprepared? How were we out-foxed by a vicious old tyrant? And do we trust the same group of people to get it right this time? I don’t.

AS FOR MICKEY: It’s always pleasant to be dismissed as “excitable”. I do react to events instantly and with my emotions as well as my brain. And I reserve the right in blog-time to change my mind. But I have never been so excitable as to have argued last December that Kerry’s campaign was so execrably bad that he should withdraw from the race before the Iowa caucuses. Let’s roll the tape, shall we?

“Kerry Withdrawal Contest: In part for reasons described in the preceding item, Democratic Senator John Kerry, once proclaimed the frontrunner in the press, faces not just defeat but utter humiliation in the New Hampshire primary. Is he really going to soldier on to finish in the single digits and get clobbered by both Howard Dean and Wesley Clark, if not one or more other candidates? Shouldn’t he save his pride (and possible national political future, if only as a VP candidate) by withdrawing from the race before this harsh popular verdict is rendered? … But what can Kerry say that isn’t even more humiliating than seeing it through?” “I realize my wife Teresa needs me more than my country needs me”? That won’t cut it. “I’ve decided to take time out to learn the Web so I can compete in future campaigns” and “I’m entering rehab at an undisclosed location to recover from my vicious Ibogaine habit. I make no excuses” are too trendy. … Let’s harness the power of the Web and help Kerry adviser/speechwriter Robert Shrum with the dirty job that lies ahead for him. A copy of John Glenn: A Memoir to the reader who submits the best cover excuse that will let Sen. Kerry drop out of the presidential race before the voting actually starts while preserving his viability within the system. … Void where prohibited…

Would it have been possible last December 5 to have written something a) that “excitable” or b) that wrong? “Not just defeat but utter humiliation.” Hysteric, heal thyself.