FIRE EVERYONE, HIRE...

FIRE EVERYONE, HIRE LA TIMES COLUMNISTS INSTEAD. Max Boot offers up the right-wing version of the incompetence dodge -- Don Rumsfeld should be fired for his mismanagement of the war, and the professionals in the officers' corps should be slammed for their own mismanagement of the war. Apparently, the only people fit to run the U.S. foreign policy are neoconservative journalists. Boot repeats the canard that "the president and his top aides blundered by not sending enough troops," though, in fact, we sent all the troops that we could send consistent with a long-term deployment. In response to General Anthony Zinni's observation that "containment worked remarkably well," Boot offers the stirring rebuttal that Zinni's "is a highly questionable judgment, and one that is not for generals to make."

Everything's "questionable" if you live in fantasyland, but since the goals of containment were to stop Saddam Hussein from building WMD, stop him from rebuilding his conventional military forces, and stop him from invading other countries -- all of which it succeeded in accomplishing -- then it seems to me to have been a policy that worked remarkably well. Boot's right that generals "are experts in how to wage war, not when to wage it," but of course there's no special cadre of "when to wage war" experts who we can call on instead. Generals obviously have relevant expertise to these kinds of strategic judgments. And for the record, the bulk of America's professional diplomats, professional intelligence analysts, professional international relations scholars, and professional Arabists also thought this was a bad idea. Admittedly, Boot did have on his side the bulk of American political pundits. The pundits got their way, and the result was a disaster. But all too many journalists are inclined to agree with Boot that this can't possibly prove that he was wrong and everyone with relevant knowledge was right. No, it shows that everyone except Boot was inept. Sure, it does.

--Matthew Yglesias

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