Matthew Yglesias

Matthew Yglesias is a senior editor at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a former Prospect staff writer, and the author of Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats.

Recent Articles

Freedom Fraud

By the fall of 2003, the main argument by which the Iraq War was sold to the public -- that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that it was likely to give to terrorists -- was looking pretty threadbare. Tacking with the wind, George W. Bush took advantage of the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a government-funded private agency that seeks to help groups around the world fighting for democracy, to reposition the brewing conflict by waxing Wilsonian. He proclaimed that "from the Fourteen Points to the Four Freedoms, to the speech at Westminster, America has put our power at the service of principle." The Iraq invasion, it turns out, would not be about Saddam Hussein handing his soon-to-be-constructed nuclear bomb to al-Qaeda after all. Instead, it would be part of a new "forward strategy of freedom" -- the boldest step yet in a campaign to transform the Middle East into a sea of democracies, thus draining the swamp of tyranny in which terrorism...

Failure Redefined

The past two weeks' events have eroded public confidence in the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, and rightly so. Still, the deterioration of the situation threatens to lower the bar for success and lead people to underestimate the full scope of the problems facing American policy. Before the war, the president clearly stated that his goal was the creation of a unified, stable, democratic Iraq. Some doubted that such an outcome would be desirable, others that it was possible; still others (I, for one) simply doubted that the Bush team had the wherewithal to pull it off. Following the emergence of the largely Sunni insurgency against the American occupation soon after the end of "major combat operations," however, the goal seemed to change. Now success would be defined as the ability to minimize U.S. casualties. The administration succeeded -- temporarily -- in achieving this, largely by replacing American forces on Iraq's streets with ill-trained Iraqi police. We are now...

Collateral Damage

From a marketing point of view, it's hard to argue with the decision to time the release of Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies to coincide with his testimony before the September 11 commission. From a political point of view, however, that decision has focused the lion's share of attention on the sexy, but ultimately irresolvable, issue of whether 9-11 could have been prevented had the Bush administration been more vigilant. Interesting as this may be, the more important question regards the merits of the administration's conduct after the attacks -- in particular, Clarke's contention that the Iraq War hindered rather than helped America's war on terrorism. Democratic commission member Bob Kerrey, an Iraq War supporter and longtime ally of Ahmed Chalabi, was good enough to at least raise the point on Sunday's Meet The Press , though he said the Iraq War has not impeded the war on terror. Gregg Easterbrook, writing for The New Republic 's Web site, pronounced the whole affair...

Credibility Gap

Writing in the March 29 issue of Newsweek , Jonathan Alter described Democrats as "over the top" in their constant references to the president's dishonesty. "Because Bush & Co. were as shocked as anyone at the absence of WMD" in Iraq, he says, "that's more in the category of grotesque hype than outright lie." For a real "example of dishonesty and, yes, corruption at high levels" we need to look to Medicare, where Chief Actuary Rick Foster calculated that the bill would cost over $150 billion more than the administration was claiming and was kept silent only through the threat that he'd be fired if he released his work to the Congress. In a sense, Alter's right. The administration learned the true cost of the bill, realized that the truth was politically inconvenient, and decided to cover it up and continue to feed the public and the Congress information it knew to be false. That is a lie. On Iraq, the administration took a different tack. On the subject of links between al-Qaeda...

Counter Intelligence

The release of a new book by Richard Clarke, counterterrorism chief at the end of Bill Clinton's administration and the beginning of George W. Bush's, accompanied by an interview with him on 60 Minutes , threatens to alert the mainstream media to a story that should have been clear for some time now: the Bush administration's terrible record on counterterrorism. As CBS reported , as soon as the new administration was in place, Clarke sought a cabinet-level meeting on al-Qaeda. Bush's response was unenthusiastic: Clarke finally got his meeting about al-Qaeda in April, three months after his urgent request. But it wasn't with the president or cabinet. It was with the second in command in each relevant department. For the Pentagon, it was Paul Wolfowitz. Clarke relates, "I began saying, 'We have to deal with [Osama] bin Laden; we have to deal with al-Qaeda.' Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, said, 'No, no, no. We don't have to deal with al-Qaeda. Why are we talking about...

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