Mark Danner's new article assessing the Bush-era "War on Terror" is very much worth reading. (A sample after the jump.) It is one of a rapidly-increasing number of good essays, speeches, and policy proposals looking at how the U.S. went wrong after 9/11 -- and not just in Iraq -- and how the next administration can start correcting the long string of previous mistakes.
This discussion needs to become more widespread, intense, and practical. John McCain is a vastly more admirable person than George W. Bush, but his strategy for Iraq and national security in general is an extension of Bush-Cheney. If and when the Democratic party moves past its current fratricide, it needs to make a big push here, not just for election purposes but so it can do something in 2009 if given the chance.
As the discussion continues, I immodestly offer this link to "Declaring Victory," the Atlantic story I wrote a year and a half ago on ways out of the War on Terror trap. As we near the end of the intellectual paralysis and policy rigidity of the Bush-Cheney years, some of the ideas people described to me back then seem, at least to me, all the more relevant.
From Mark Danner's article:
So how, finally, do we "take stock of the War on Terror"? Let me suggest three words:
1. Fragmentation -- brought about by "creative destabilization," as we see it not only in Iraq but in Lebanon, Palestine, and elsewhere in the region;
2. Diminution -- of American prestige, both military and political, and thus of American power;
3. Destruction -- of the political consensus within the United States for a strong global role.
Gaze for a moment at those three words and marvel at how far we have come in a half-dozen years.
In September 2001, the United States faced a grave threat. The attacks that have become synonymous with that date were unprecedented in their destructiveness, in their lethality, in the pure apocalyptic shock of their spectacle. But in their aftermath, American policymakers, partly through ideological blindness and preening exaggeration of American power, partly through blindness brought about by political opportunism, made decisions that led to a defeat only their own actions -- that only American power itself -- could have brought about.