September 21, 2004

Novak Redux

The point is that by winding down America's military presence, while promising aid to those who don't harbor anti-American terrorists and retaliation against those who do, the U.S. can probably leave behind an Iraq that isn't an American ally, but isn't a threat either. And that, at this point, is probably the best we can hope for.

Steve Hadley, Condi, or a chastened Wolfy?

Nope. Paul Krugman, writing in today's NYT.

Krugman doesn't work for Kerry (officially, at least!). But you can be sure that his comments reflect a large swath of Democrat-think on going forward Iraq policy. My gut tells me more senior elite Democrat foreign policy-makers are thinking along these lines (hell, Kerry would never have gone in to begin with per his upteenth latest Iraq position) than Republican ones--despite Bob Novak's story (which I am even more dubious about today than I was yesterday).

I think Novak's (so thinly sourced and speculative) story was mostly a variegated combo of: 1) paleos enjoying a bit of schadenfreude at the neo-con's expense; 2) trial ballooning Condi and Steve Hadley for promotions; 3) helping pre-emptively (pun intended) abort Wolfy-as-SefDef speculation (related to 1 above); and 4) injecting a reality check into the Iraq debate--message: if we want to turn Iraq around; more resources and resolve are going to be needed.

1 and 3 don't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Let Novak and Pat Buchanan have a laugh at the neo-cons expense (perhaps Taki can join them, now that the Athens games have concluded, for a giggle). On 3, let people better understand that Wolfowitz is likely not confirmable as a Rummy replacement (er, isn't that just stating the obvious; or am I losing by Beltway prognostication skills over here in far-away London?).

2 and, in particular, 4 do matter. On 2, I wonder if Condi as SecState and Hadley at the NSC is the smartest Bush II team. Bush should at least consider Hagel and Lugar for State too (after all, it shows confidence to bring occasional critics into your tent). Plus, I think the President is comfortable with Condi near him--why move her to Foggy Bottom? And, looming in all of this, we need a new Secretary of Defense, imho.

Mr. President--announce in one of your impending debates that, having loyally and ably served, Rummy will be returning to the private sector--and McCain will take over the Pentagon in your second administration. McCain will, all told, be loyal and controllable--if a bit blustery sometimes. But, and most important, he will signal to your war supporters that you are serious about seeing Iraq through!

Which leads us to the all important Point 4 above. The biggest one of all. Novak's story, while highly dubious in large part, will at least likely have the beneficial effect ( perhaps intendedby some) of throwing into the open how mammoth a challenge Iraq presents--and forcing the President to reassure his war supporters that he will not pull a stealth Kerry (Kerry, I am convinced, is not taking Iraq seriously enough--his foreign policy team has woefully underperformed in terms of thinking of real options there (the Euros will come!); leading me to believe he will, as he's all but said openly, cut and run by the second half of '06).

Bottom line: The President can stay on his basic Roveian message about the march of freedom if he wishes (Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Fallujah etc. aside). Many voters like such straight-forward, simple narratives--it's probably good politics. But, at the same time, he must at least signal to his supporters that he a) knows it's tough in Iraq right now (and not just b/c of Anbar Province and Steyn-in-Surrey crapola) and b) he's going to try to make it right, even if it involves (gulp)--more troops, more money, more time.

If Novak's article helps elicit such statements of resolve from the White House--he will have done his good deed for the day--even if his real motive was to rub a little mud in the faces of the (increasingly utopic) non-Fukuyamaites neos.

P.S. People have written in to say I'm being hard on Wolfowitz. Er, check the "B.D. in the Press" section to the right below. I've defended Wolfowitz in the past--and admire his intellect. But a lot has happened over the past three odd years and, like it or not, it hasn't made any going forward Senate confirmation hearings for him any easier (putting it delicately).

Posted by Gregory Djerejian at September 21, 2004 02:08 PM
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