posted on May 04, 2007 11:08
Former CIA Director George Tenet (in his new book) says the debate within the Bush Administration before the invasion of Iraq ‘was not about imminence, it was about acting before Saddam did.’
In other words, President Bush invaded Iraq not because Saddam was on the verge of giving al-Qaeda weapons of mass destruction but because he wanted to act before Saddam decided that was a good idea. That sounds reasonable. Preventing a threat is a legitimate foreign policy aim of the United States government.
Unfortunately, that was not the reason the Bush Administration gave for invading Iraq. Then after the invasion Iraq turned into a quagmire and by the 2006 election the Bush Administration’s policy had plummeted in popularity in voters’ eyes.
Worse, in the long run, President Bush’s failure in Iraq leaves the Republican candidates for President facing a deeper dilemma.
Iran is building nuclear weapons. That is the major foreign threat we face today. But because of Iraq any politician who urges any action in Iran less anemic than negotiations or sanctions takes his political life in his hands. No one wants to risk being accused of sowing the seeds of another Iraq. So Iran is a non-issue in the presidential campaign.
Last weekend the Civitas Institute held a conference in Raleigh on polling. Someone asked: ‘How do voters perceive the Republican Party?’ Someone said: ‘As George Bush.’ Then one of the pollsters said bluntly: ‘And the big secret this election is Republicans voters want a candidate who is not George Bush.’ Then he mentioned the word incompetence.
What he is saying is simple: Today George Bush defines the Republican Party in the public mind. The Republican presidential primary is about changing that. Republicans voters are looking for a candidate who offers a different vision – or, perhaps, a different execution is a better description – of the war on terrorism than the President. That candidate does not have to be ‘softer’ on terrorism than President Bush or even disagree with his goals. But he does – clearly – have to offer a plan to win the war that is his and not Bush’s.
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