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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


I spent a good part of this Good Friday in various airports trying to return from a short trip away from Washington, and without benefit of services, prayerbook, or the Gospel accounts of the Passion, I wound up reading a very different and painful (if profane) story: Cobra II, Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor’s extraordinary military history of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. I’m less than half-way through reading Cobra II, but it’s very clear the prime villain of the book is Donald Rumsfeld, whose folly was illustrated by (a) pushing for an invasion of Iraq as a simple illustration of American power, not as a response to genuine threats to our security; (b) deciding from the get-go, as a matter of ideology, against any nation-building responsibilities for post-Saddam Iraq; and (c) obsessively opposing any troop deployments that might undermine his determination to prove all the military planners wrong.It’s not surprising that the publication of this insider account of the Iraq war has coincided with an ever-growing cascade of retired military officials, including several top leaders of the Iraq invasion itself, demanding Rummy’s firing. But as David Rieff explains in a review of Cobra II in The New Republic, Rumsfeld’s apparent invulnerability to the manifest consequences of his sins reflects the Bush administration’s stunning inability to learn from mistakes or adapt to objective reality–and perhaps a broader post-Cold-War American elite habit of believing that our “sole superpower” status makes us Supermen. Good Friday is a pretty good time for reminding ourselves–especially those of us whose Christian heritage includes a messianic role for the United States of America–that while our country has enormous responsibilities and opportunities for bringing order, justice, democracy and freedom to the world, we are not immune from the consequences of human fallibility, or of the folly of proud men who wield power without accountability.

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