"If you want peace, understand war," the military historian B. H. Liddell Hart once wrote, and during the past century -- some would say ever since Gen. Sherman's march through Georgia -- that injunction meant anyone interested in peace needed above all to understand the practice of "total war."
Since Lyndon Johnson, every Democrat who has run for president has suffered repudiation within his own party after either serving in office or losing the election. Democrats repudiated Johnson because of the Vietnam War, Jimmy Carter because of the economy and Bill Clinton because of his personal conduct, and they repudiated George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis for their seeming personal inadequacy in the crucible of political battle.
The suspicion will not die that the Bush administration turned to Iraq for relief from a sharp decline in its domestic political prospects. The news had been dominated for months by corporate scandals and the fall of the stock market, and the November elections were shaping up as a referendum on the Republicans' handling of domestic social and economic issues. Investigative reporters had turned their attention to Dick Cheney's role at Halliburton and George W. Bush's sale of his Harken Energy shares just before the stock collapsed.
I should be among the supporters of an invasion of Iraq. A decade ago, after Iraq seized Kuwait, I agreed with the decision to go to war and wrote in The New Republic, at the start of the conflict, that allied forces should go all the way to Baghdad. My view was that Saddam Hussein had forfeited the legitimacy of his regime, and, having resolved not to let his aggression stand, we ought to deny him any chance for revenge. When the first President Bush called off our attack, I was bitterly disappointed.
September 11 will be commemorated this year as a day of national and private grief, but it is also a political anniversary. One year ago, the postCold War era came to an end and a new phase in our country's history began. What this new phase will be -- whether the September 11 attacks will stand as an isolated episode or initiate a longer and perhaps more dreadful chain of events -- we cannot possibly know. The past year, however, has already told us a great deal about the strengths and limitations of President George W. Bush's response to 9-11 and the definition that he has given to this new stage in our nation's life.