Sunday, December 24, 2006

Flipping and flopping and failing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

He's not necessarily my pick for '08, but John Kerry, whom I still respect and admire a great deal, has written an excellent op-ed for The Washington Post on Iraq.

Bush and the Republican spin machine accused him repeatedly of flipping and flopping back in '04, but the opening line of his piece, a line he should have used in some form to counter those ridiculous accusations, is brilliant:

There's something much worse than being accused of "flip-flopping": refusing to flip when it's obvious that your course of action is a flop.

And he goes on:

I say this to President Bush as someone who learned the hard way how embracing the world's complexity can be twisted into a crude political shorthand. Barbed words can make for great politics. But with U.S. troops in Iraq in the middle of an escalating civil war, this is no time for politics. Refusing to change course for fear of the political fallout is not only dangerous -- it is immoral.

And, indeed, Bush's disastrous war has proven to be an immoral flop:

No one should be looking for vindication in what is happening in Iraq today. The lesson here is not that some of us were right about Iraq or that some of us were wrong. The lesson is simply that we need to change course rapidly rather than perversely use mistakes already made and lives already given as an excuse to make more mistakes and lose even more lives.

When young Americans are being killed and maimed, when the Middle East is on the brink of three civil wars, even the most vaunted "steadfastness" morphs pretty quickly into stubbornness, and resolve becomes recklessness. Changing tactics in the face of changing conditions on the ground, developing new strategies because the old ones don't work, is a hell of a lot smarter than the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again with the same tragic results.

Where was this John Kerry in '04? Oh, never mind. He may have lost, but he's been right about Iraq for a long time. And no matter who wins the Democratic nomination in '08, this is the position Democrats -- and critics of the war generally -- ought to be taking with respect to Iraq and, as of early next year, Bush's new plan for "victory," one that, according to all the signs, will feature some sort of "surge" in Baghdad.

It is time for new leadership because the old leadership, Bush's leadership, has failed so miserably. Bush may be preparing his new plan, but there won't really be anything new about it. And it, too, will fail.

John Kerry may or may not be the right person to lead, but his voice still deserves to be heard. For whether he wins or loses the nomination, and whatever the future course of his life in politics, he is right about Iraq.

Make sure to read his piece in its entirety. It's important that you do. (And then go see The Democratic Daily and Liberal Values for more.)

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