May I try to change the focus of the Andy/John discussion? I mostly agree with Andy; I think that this administration is currently in a holding pattern, having ceded the initiative on Iran policy to the Europeans—we are waiting for the Europeans to admit failure on the nuclear talks—and barking, but not biting, on Syria. I entirely agree with Andy that too many official statements make it sound as if we are actually hoping that Assad and the mullahs will be “helpful.” That sounds as if we hope they will cease to support the terror war in Iraq.
I doubt anyone in the Cabinet really believes that Iran and Syria will be helpful; it is by now luminously clear that Iran and Syria are doing most everything they can to drive us out of Iraq. The president and the secretaries of state and defense surely know this, and they have more or less said so, most of the time.
But when the tough talk isn’t accompanied by serious action—and there is no serious action on either front—then it’s inevitable that serious people will read the mushier statements and conclude that they represent the ‘real’ policy.
All of this seems to me to belong in a broader context, namely our failure to look at Iraq as part of a regional war. I don’t think our strategery team fully accepts the fact that there will not be decent security in Iraq until and unless there are free governments in Syria and Iran. The reason is that the Assads and the mullahs know that if freedom prevails in Iraq, their own power is fatally threatened—by their own people. Thus we must support freedom in Syria and Iran. Politically, not militarily.
The president has said all of this, over and over again. But he does not seem to have bitten the strategic bullet, and ordered the government to support regime change in Damascus and Tehran.
So I think John is right to say that this president has shown profound insight into the nature of the war we are in, and I think Andy is right to say we are not waging that war effectively, and he is right to say that a lot of the rhetoric nowadays is disconcerting, dismaying, and disappointing.
Which is why I keep on muttering “faster, please.”