Monday, February 05, 2007

IRAQ REWIND Reasonable people now agree that the Iraq war has been a debacle, and that invading the way we did, when we did, was a mistake.

But what kind of mistake?

Was the core mission fundamentally misguided? Or was the problem only that it was badly executed?

Are the Shiite exiles the chief culprits? Was the decision to dissolve the Iraqi army the turning point? Or is President George W. Bush's arrogant, incompetent leadership to blame?

It's a complicated question, naturally--and there isn't a single, knowable right answer. But Ezra Klein over at over at The American Prospect has begun the important work of teasing out the views of the 2008 Democratic nomination contenders.

All the candidates have an interest in fudging the details--it's hard to score political points when you're dealing with nuances. And splitting hairs about why the war failed risks alienating voters who disagree on the specifics.

But it's important that primary voters understand exactly where each of the candidates stand.

In Klein's interview with John Edwards, for example, the former Senator suggests that the mistake he made in supporting the war was the mistake of trusting an incompetent President. But Edwards is not ready to say the project of invading, occupying and democratizing Iraq was itself misconceived.

For her part, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) seems to believe that the war was a mistake in that it turned out badly. In other words, that in hindsight we must call it a mistake.

But she hasn't yet been ready to go even as far as Edwards in saying that the decision to give this particular President the authority to go to war was a misjudgment on her part.

We'll be interested to see what else these (and other) candidates have to say about these issues as the campaign unfolds.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.