The Republicans are making much of the fact that during the primary campaign Kerry challenged Howard Dean's anti-war stance by proclaiming:
"those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."
They are contrasting it with his recent "wrong war at the wrong time" remarks as an example of flip-floppery, asking "which time was Kerry right, then or now?" It is a false conflict.
The answer: Kerry was right BOTH TIMES. They aren't mutually exclusive. That isn't a "flip-flop," and the fact that the Bush campaign doesn't appear to understand it shows just how lacking in analytical reasoning ability the administration really is. We should not have invaded, and we are better off now that Saddam has been captured. NO CONFLICT and no flip-floppery.
In short, Saddam was a threat but Bush's invasion solution did more harm than good. The world is better off with Saddam gone. We would have been better off without invading to remove him. Confused? Too "nuanced?" Fine. As long as you aren't in charge of our military and putting soldiers in harm's way you can be confused. I expect more from a president though.
This President and his national security team is in charge of our safety in a complicated and dangerous world, but he doesn't appear to have the ability to grasp complicated concepts, instead preferring to ridicule "nuance" and championing an anti-intellectual attitude. As a result of this action-movie hero mentality we have made disastrous mistakes (such as invading Iraq) and continue to make them. We end up with simplistic solutions to complex problems. We spend hundreds of billions of dollars and over 1,000 US lives (and thousands and thousands more wounded) and the result is we are less secure than before. And the most immediate threat to us, Islamic Terrorism, is stronger than before. Why in the world should the man responsible for that be given another chance? Because people want to believe, they want to feel good, they don't want to face reality. They don't want to think that 1,000 dead didn't help. They don't want to be afraid. So they follow.
As a side note, this anti-"egghead" attitude that ridicules intellectualism seemingly disqualifies for command such bookish well-read intellectuals as Patton, Rommel, Bradley, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Zhukov, Le Clerc, Yamamoto, and Maxwell Taylor. But hey, it's popular, it makes for great sound-bites, and it will lead to votes.
We shouldn't have invaded, and even if we did we shouldn't have done it in the manner we did (no allies, no plan for political consolidation of military success, not enough troops, etc. etc.), and even then Saddam was still our enemy and a threat, so it is good that he is gone. It just wasn't worth the cost to our national security. And we are NOT safer than before, we are less safe. We will be even worse off than now if we lose and Iraq descends into chaos or turns into "Iraqistan." But that doesn't for one second mean it was a good idea to invade. It was a mistake and our President was the one that made it. I won't vote for somebody with such a terrible national security track record, especially one that has manipulated the truth of 9/11 and WMDs so much that he runs on national security as a STRENGTH.
It is another example of the right-wing's inability to count above two. And it is why, when I say that the invasion was world-class stupid, I always have people try and convince me that we should stay in Iraq and that pulling out would be a disaster. "I agree" I tell them, and then they say "but you said you were against the war." "Yes," I tell them, "I was, and am. It was world-class stupid, and now we need to stabilize Iraq, and I am glad Saddam is gone." And they call me a flip-flopper too.
But don't take my word for it. Here is an excerpt from a US Army Strategic Studies Institute monograph:
"The war against Iraq was a detour from, not an integral component of, the war on terrorism; in fact, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM may have expanded the terrorist threat by establishing a large new American target set in an Arab heartland.... Indeed, homeland security is probably the greatest GWOT (Global War On Terrorism) opportunity cost of the war against Iraq.... [Now that we have invaded,] Establishing democracy in Iraq is clearly a desirable objective, and the United States should do whatever it can to accomplish that goal."
One more thing as we sadly pass 1,000 US KIA in Iraq. The Army predicted all of this and was ignored. Ideology trumped reality, and still does. A U.S. Army study on reconstructing Iraq was published the month before Operation IRAQI FREEDOM was launched. It warned:
"If the war is rapid with few casualties, the occupation will probably be characterized by an initial honeymoon period during which the United States will reap the benefits of ridding the population of a brutal dictator. Nevertheless, most Iraqis and most other Arabs will probably assume that the United States intervened in Iraq for its own reasons and not to liberate the population. Long-term gratitude is unlikely and suspicion of U.S. motives will increase as the occupation continues. A force initially viewed as liberators can rapidly be relegated to the status of invaders should an unwelcome occupation continue for a prolonged time. Occupation problems may be especially acute if the United States must implement the bulk of the occupation itself rather than turn these duties over to a postwar international force." Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges, and Missions for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario, Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, February, 2003, p. 17.
And yet the President declared the end to major combat operations hundreds of casualties ago, shortly after our defeat of the Iraqi military. Did he or his staff bother to even read what the Army was saying all along? Didn't he know we were in a "honeymoon" period and that we had a critical window of opportunity that we must seize upon in order to consolidate our military success? No, he didn't. 1,000 US dead later and we are less safe than before and the President was surprised by events that our military was clearly predicting. Don't we deserve better? Don't our troops deserve better?