Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It would seem reasonable to conclude that President Bush has actually learned some lessons from the past three and a half years and now intends to change course significantly in Iraq and elsewhere. After all, he's nominated someone for secretary of defense who today (according to The New York Times) "said it was 'too soon to tell' whether the American invasion in 2003 had been a good idea"; who said "No, sir" in response to the question "Do you believe that we are currently winning in Iraq?"; who "was ... direct in criticizing the Bush administration's decision to disband the Iraqi Army and, for a time, to bar from government jobs tens of thousands of Iraqis who were members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party"; who said, "I think that military action against Iran would be an absolute last resort"; and who said, "I suspect, in hindsight, some of the folks in the administration probably would not make the same decisions that they made and I think one of those is that there clearly were insufficient troops in Iraq after the initial invasion to establish control over the country."

What kind of person would nominate someone like Robert Gates, set him loose to say these things, and not be intending to acknowledge past errors and change course?

Well, maybe Bush. I suspect he's been criticized for so long (and has heard Rumsfeld criticized for so long) that he essentially hired one of his own critics just so he can rebuff him, marginalize him, and humiliate him. Like a guy walking into a bar and looking for a fight, Bush is saying, "Yeah? You think you're so tough? Come fight me on my turf."

If I'm right about this, it's an absolutely lunatic reaction to a foreign-policy crisis. But, hey, it's Bush. I really think this is what's going on.

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