Unintended Consequences

The last week in June began with President George W. Bush delivering a rare prime-time televised speech to reassure an increasingly skeptical nation that the ongoing U.S. occupation of Iraq is succeeding, and ended with the unexpected announcement of the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor from the Supreme Court. Finding a successor to O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the High Court, promises to be a brutal partisan battle, one that threatens to consume much of the nation’s attention and political energies for months to come.

Supreme Court appointments are serious business and serious politics. With the Court so narrowly divided, especially on church-state questions that so animate the culture wars, much seems to hang on who will take O’Connor’s place on the bench. Still, it would be a tragedy if the fight over the Court further distracted the nation from the deteriorating situation in Iraq, where this country continues to reap the consequences of the president’s decision to go to war without a serious plan for how to win the peace or any notion of how to rebuild a shattered and bitterly divided country.

As Andrew Bacevich argues (page 13), among the unanticipated consequences of the rush to war in Iraq and the pursuit of the president’s supposed “global” war on terror is the unraveling of the all-volunteer army. Because of the mayhem in Iraq and the undemocratic assumptions underlying both the...

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