The Right Coast

October 30, 2004
Bias and (In)Competence
By Mike Rappaport

Many people, including the Economist Magazine, have argued that Bush has been running the Wars on Terror and in Iraq incompetently and support Kerry on that basis. But what about the War in Afghanistan? The Bush Administration has been tremendously successful there, defeating the Taliban, forcing Pakistan to become an ally, and instituting the beginnings of democracy. See here.

If Bush is so incompetent, how has he been able to pull off these feats? Of course, it is sometimes said that Afghanistan was easy, but that is not how it was initially perceived. After all, war in Afghanistan had defeated the Soviets.

The Bush critics are selective in their focus. Here is my explanation for the success in Afghanistan and the relative difficulty in Iraq (I say relative because I am not pessimistic about the prospects of some freedom in Iraq so long as Bush is reelected). Terrorists from other countries have chosen to focus on Iraq, so the job here is much harder. Moreover, the difficulty in fighting such terrorists cannot solely or easily be attributed to the incompetence of the Bush Administration. The Israelis, who are experienced at this and are hardly incompetent, also have a difficult time fighting terrorists (in their own country). If the Israelis have a hard time and cannot easily stop terror, the critics of the Bush Administration expect too much.

It is not that the Bush Administration has not made mistakes. Of course it has. But it is important to recognize that this is a new type of war for the US and mistakes were inevitable. It is unrealistic to expect an Administration to display the competence of Kerry's (or Andrew Sullvian's) hindsight.