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Red Scare

One of the pleasures of my job is having a first look at our letters to the editor. I’ve learned that TAC should rename itself The American Liberal, that we either hate Jews or don’t hate Jews enough, and that disgruntled Republicans have an amazing affinity for a four-letter word other than Bush.

Most recently, the Limbaugh set has been hyperventilating about Andrew Bacevich’s “Conservative Case for Obama [1].” In it, he offers the most thoughtful definition of conservatism ever to appear in our pages. Since he describes a temperament rather than some checklist of issues, no surprise that the Bush babies misunderstood and, being good radicals, ticketed Andy to outer darkness.

I’m actually unpersuaded by his argument—but not in a way that will win friends among his detractors. Perhaps Obama, as Bacevich hopes, would ring down the curtain on the Iraq debacle, leaving history to render a harsh verdict. Perhaps.

But suppose President Obama begins the long good-bye and Iraq comes apart? With apologies to those still waiting for the locals to throw flowers, it will.

Cue the predictable neocon whine: We cut and run just short of victory. Far from slinking away, they’ll blame the new president. He’ll be accused of betraying our troops, American greatness, purple-fingered Iraqis, freedom itself. And they will be off the hook.

But suppose we try a different strategy and give the neocons what they want. It will be costly. A McCain presidency will mean more blood, more treasure, and—with the last five years as witness—little to show for the sacrifice. But Americans might come to see, in ways they haven’t yet, the futility of the democracy crusade. And the neocons would stand discredited. It’s a more painful but potentially more effective way to accomplish the Bacevich goal:

Advocates of ‘World War IV’ will be treated with the derision they deserve. The claim that open-ended ‘global war’ offers the proper antidote to Islamic radicalism will become subject to long overdue reconsideration.

Think “the worse, the better.” Call it the Leninist case for McCain.