Just So Much Master Debating on Iraq


Iraq: We broke it, we own it.

Or, rather, we should own it. But judging from the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate last night in New Hampshire, there’s still too much arguing about who’s responsible.

Too bad the debate wasn’t moderated by Tony Cordesman, the D.C.-based analyst who has made more sense on Iraq during the past five years than most people. He calls the Iraq debacle “the Pottery Barn issue.” Actually, he credits Colin Powell for that phrase.

Cordesman is no peacenik. He’s a specialist in Iraq and military affairs.

As Colin Powell once said about Iraq, there’s the Pottery Barn issue: If you break it, you own it. Well, we did break it. We invaded it without any plan for stabilization and reconstruction. We created the wrong kind of elections, which almost ensured that the country would split on ethnic and religious lines. We enforced a constitution Iraq didn’t need in a way that created a debate over virtually every issue that could divide the Iraqis. Our economic aid plan was a nightmare, and we did not get around to training effective Iraqi forces until 2005, and we still don’t have a clear plan for the police. The problem is we did indeed break it. We don’t however own it. What we do have are moral and ethical obligations.

Keep that in mind as you read about last night’s debate.

The die was cast back in October 2002, so Hillary Clinton and John Edwards have a lot to answer for — both supported Bush’s insane war resolution. Barack Obama, who was still just a candidate for the Senate back in the fall of 2002, was outspoken against the war. He can’t be blamed for it.

And when he gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2004, the networks didn’t even air it.

Edwards and Clinton both supported Bush on that fateful day in October 2002. And it was merely laughable that Clinton defended her vote last night by calling it “sincere.” Never trust anything a pol says when he or she accompanies it with the words “sincere” or “frankly.”

Still, though, the problem is now: We broke Iraq and we own it. Or at least we have to own up to it. That means we can’t simply pull out as fast as we can. It means we have to fix what we broke. With diplomatic solutions. As Cordesman said, it’s just the right thing to do.

So hold your applause for the first presidential candidate who dares to make that point.