Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How They Blew It

Gary Kamiya on how the Democrats blew their chance to deal the Republicans a devastating blow on their conduct of a failed war.

There was no better time for the Democrats to take the risk and go for broke than after the 2006 elections, when it became clear that America was ready for bold new thinking. For the past year, the Democrats could have been hammering away at the point that Bush, whose “tough” policies have greatly increased the risk of terror attacks, is the one who’s soft on terrorism and weak on national security. They could have pointed out that Bush’s supposedly pro-Israel approach has actually been as disastrous for Israel, which has to live in the neighborhood that Bush riled up, as it is for America. Militant Islamist groups are stronger; Iran is stronger; Israel’s strategic position is weaker. They could have embraced the report issued by the ultra-establishment Iraq Study Group, which bluntly stated that “the United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Of course, challenging a war president holds political dangers, but when a war is an obvious failure, it’s worth the gamble. But it can’t be a halfhearted challenge. As the old saying goes, if you strike the king, you must kill him. The fizzled-out antiwar campaign shows that autopilot patriotism and the self-sustaining inertia of war will defeat any opponent who isn’t prepared to play for keeps.

Above all, the American people are ready for a radical change in our approach to the Middle East. Americans are confused about what to do, but they know that Bush’s approach has failed. They are looking for leadership and a new approach. They have got neither.