The war president

One year ago, dressed in a flight suit and striking the pose of a warrior, President George W. Bush landed in a jet on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. Addressing the ship’s assembled crew, Bush declared that “major combat” in Iraq had ended. Like the administration’s confident predictions that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and had terrorist ties to Al Qaeda, Bush’s remarks have proved false. As Americans are reminded every night before their television sets, April, 2004, in which more than 110 U.S. soldiers and thousands of Iraqis were killed, was the bloodiest month of combat since the United States launched its invasion and occupation.

The president’s frail grasp of the difficulties the United States would face in pacifying Iraq, let alone in bringing “freedom and democracy” to the larger Middle East, becomes clearer every day. In his April prime-time news conference, Bush repeatedly asserted that the United States is engaged in a “historic opportunity to change the world.” Making America more secure, he argued, requires that we seize “this historic moment” to do nothing less than remake the Middle East in our image.

Confidence in Bush’s ability to effect such change might be greater if his past descriptions of the world, and of the threats facing the United States, had been more reliable. The president, however, is undeterred by the colossal failures of intelligence and...

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