It is time to ask this question: Do we have any chance of succeeding at regime change in Iraq without regime change here at home?
It has always been more important for the Bush folks to defeat liberals at home than Baathists abroad. That’s why they spent more time studying U.S. polls than Iraqi history. That is why, I’ll bet, Karl Rove has had more sway over this war than Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns. Mr. Burns knew only what would play in the Middle East. Mr. Rove knew what would play in the Middle West.
Why, in the face of rampant looting in the war’s aftermath, which dug us into such a deep and costly hole, wouldn’t Mr. Rumsfeld put more troops into Iraq? Politics. First of all, Rummy wanted to crush once and for all the Powell doctrine, which says you fight a war like this only with overwhelming force. I know this is hard to believe, but the Pentagon crew hated Colin Powell, and wanted to see him humiliated 10 times more than Saddam. Second, Rummy wanted to prove to all those U.S. generals whose Army he was intent on downsizing that a small, mobile, high-tech force was all you needed today to take over a country. Third, the White House always knew this was a war of choice — its choice — so it made sure that average Americans never had to pay any price or bear any burden. Thus, it couldn’t call up too many reservists, let alone have a draft. Yes, there was a contradiction between the Bush war on taxes and the Bush war on terrorism. But it was resolved: the Bush team decided to lower taxes rather than raise troop levels.
For the record, I still think that anyone who uses the term “regime change” to refer to the process by which one member of Skull and Bones replaces another as the result of an election either doesn’t know what the term “regime” means or prefers slick phrasing to conceptual clarity. Other than that, I think Friedman has it right.