Andy — I agree with you and Douglas Feith that Bush made a huge mistake by retrospectively framing the war as an effort to bring democracy to Iraq. But it’s hard to argue that the war was really about eliminating a security threat, and not about WMD. Iraq was thought to be a security threat because of its alleged stockpiles of WMD, and Feith’s reasons for the war make that clear. In the 2004 memo he quotes in his Journal piece today, Feith wrote that framing the war as an effort to foster Iraqi democracy “mixes up our current important goal (i.e., getting Iraq on the path to democratic government) with the strategic rationale for the war, which was to end the danger that Saddam might provide biological or [other] weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against us.” The reason that Saddam supposedly posed a threat to us always came back to WMD, and the fact is that the dire scenarios sketched by the Bush administration in the run-up to the war did not turn out to be accurate.
For many of us, the war was supposed to be about U.S. national security and only about U.S. national security. It would be nice if we could make Iraq a better place, just as it would be nice if we could make Afghanistan a better place, but that was never a sufficient reason to go to war. The reason to go to war was to find and kill every last son of a bitch who had anything to do with 9/11. And that job was not the main focus in Iraq, and in any event is unfortunately not finished.
One of the main reasons John McCain is facing such an tough job today is that we are now in the sixth year of a war that the president of his own party started by mistake. That’s a major headwind when you’re running for president; an error of that magnitude will exact a political price. Would anyone be surprised if voters say that they’ve had enough?