Steadiness and Unsteadiness

I no longer read Andrew Sullivan with any regularity, so I wouldn’t have known that he took a shot at us if I hadn’t read about it on InstaPundit. The context is that Mickey Kaus has criticized Andrew for not being “steady” in his assessment of what is going on in Iraq. Andrew responds, not unreasonably, that his views have see-sawed back and forth with events, and that his blog “reflects the changing reality of the times.” Andrew says that he supported the ouster of Saddam and very much wants our effort in Iraq to succeed, and I believe him. He contrasts his wavering position with Seymour Hersh, on one extreme–no matter what happens, it’s a disaster–and us and Belmont Club on the other:

Does Mickey think the job of a writer is to take a line and stick to it in order to rally morale? If he does, then he can always read Powerline or the Belmont Club. Nothing unpredictable there. Whatever Bush does, they’ll defend it.

Glenn defends us against this charge (Andrew criticized him too), saying:

Sullivan’s gratuitous slap at The Belmont Club and Power Line is rather unjustified. The Belmont Club’s track record on Iraq, after all, has been rather good, as has Power Line’s.

Maybe it’s a result of what I do for a living, but I’m hard to offend, and I don’t begrudge Andrew his opinion. I think it’s generally true that we have supported President Bush on Iraq, through thick and thin. But I don’t think this is because we are uncritical or blindly partisan. I think it is because steadiness is a key virtue in a leader, and Bush has been steady and resolute in his conduct of the war against Islamic terrorists.
We are not military tacticians, nor are we privy to intelligence beyond what appears in the newspapers and what we can deduce through common sense. But we agree with President Bush’s basic judgments and decisions; we respect him and his security team; and we are absolutely confident that he shares our determination to defeat, once and for all, the threat of Islamic terrorism. It is hard to see what purpose would be served by second-guessing the administration over every setback, or wringing our hands over every difficulty. Setbacks and difficulties are endemic to warfare, and God knows there is plenty of second-guessing and hand-wringing going on without our contributing to it.
If we ever become convinced that the administration has made a major misjudgment in its conduct of the war, you can be sure we will express that conviction. In the meantime, the administration has our support and our admiration, and we will not add our voices to the burden of incessant criticism under which the administration labors.
DEACON adds: I’m not offended by Sullivan’s comments either. However, I think he may be missing the distinction between our views (or mine, anyway) on how things are going in Iraq and our assessment of how President Bush is doing. The issues are related, but different. As to the first, I have made it clear that I’m not as sanguine as some. I see reasons for optimism and reasons for pessimism, and find it difficult to determine which set of reasons carries more force right now. At the same time, most of President Bush’s major decisions about Iraq seem either correct or quite defensible. I believe he was correct to go to war based on the intelligence he had; correct to remain engaged, instead of running, despite the difficulties we face; correct to be aggressively pursuing democratization; probably correct not to have tried to keep Saddam’s army intact; possibly correct in his decisions about troop levels (my lack of military expertise limits my ability to judge this); and certainly correct and admirable, as Rocket Man says, in his steadiness in Iraq and in the war against terrorism generally. It’s one thing for a blogger like Sullivan to be upbeat about Iraq one week and distraught the next. It’s another thing for the president’s mood to oscillate in this manner.


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