Fareed Zakaria at PostGlobal

Fareed Zakaria

Editor of Newsweek International, columnist

PostGlobal co-moderator Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International, overseeing all Newsweek's editions abroad. He writes a regular column for Newsweek, which also appears in Newsweek International and often The Washington Post. He is a member of the roundtable of ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanapoulos" as well as an analyst for ABC News. And he is the host of a new weekly PBS show, "Foreign Exchange" which focuses on international affairs. His most recent book, "The Future of Freedom," was published in the spring of 2003 and was a New York Times bestseller and is being translated into eighteen languages. He is also the author of "From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America's World Role" (Princeton University Press), and co-editor of "The American Encounter: The United States and the Making of the Modern World" (Basic Books). Close.

Fareed Zakaria

Editor of Newsweek International, columnist

PostGlobal co-moderator Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International, overseeing all Newsweek's editions abroad. He writes a regular column for Newsweek, which also appears in Newsweek International and often The Washington Post. more »

Main Page | Fareed Zakaria Archives | PostGlobal Archives


True or False: We Need a Wartime President

George W. Bush is fond of describing himself as a "war president." And he has made many decisions involving soldiers and battle. But does this make the description an appropriate one? For many people the answer is obvious. We're engaged in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, after all. But Bill Clinton initiated hostilities in the Balkans twice, George H.W. Bush invaded Panama and Iraq, and neither president ever described himself as a "war president."

For a superpower, being involved in a military conflict somewhere is more the norm than the exception. Since 1945, only one president has not presided over combat that engaged American troops—Jimmy Carter. (Between the Bay of Pigs operation and the American "advisers" in South Vietnam, John F. Kennedy doesn't make the cut.) America remains the world's dominant military-political power, so local crises often engage American allies or interests. Britain was in a somewhat similar position in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result, British forces were fighting someone, somewhere for most of that period. But Britain did not think of itself as "at war," nor would British prime ministers have described themselves as "wartime" leaders. (In fact, Tony Blair has never described himself as such, even though he presided over British military involvement in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq.)

America (and before it, Britain) has felt it was "at war" when the conflict threatened the country's basic security—not merely its interests or its allies abroad. This is the common-sense way in which we define a wartime leader, and by that definition the politicians in charge during World Wars I and II—Wilson, Lloyd George, Roosevelt, Churchill—are often described as such. It's not a perfect definition. The United States has been so far removed from most conflicts that even World War I's effects could be described as indirect (incorrectly in my view). But it conjures up the image of a threat to society as a whole, which then requires a national response.

By any of these criteria, we are not at war. At some level, we all know it. Life in America today is surprisingly normal for a country with troops in two battle zones. The country may be engaged in wars, but it is not at war. Consider as evidence the behavior of our "war president." Bush recently explained that for the last few years he has given up golf, because "to play the sport in a time of war" would send the wrong signal. Compare Bush's "sacrifice" to those made by Americans during World War II, when most able-bodied men were drafted, food was rationed and industries were commandeered to produce military equipment. For example, there were no civilian cars manufactured in the United States from 1941 to 1945.

Of course, there are people, including Bush, who would argue that we are at war even in this deeper sense. In its June 23 issue, Fortune magazine asked Sen. John McCain what the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy was. He took a while to answer—an 11-second pause, by Fortune's count—but then said, "Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against radical Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence."

It is by now overwhelmingly clear that Al Qaeda and its philosophy are not the worldwide leviathan that they were once portrayed to be. Both have been losing support over the last seven years. The terrorist organization's ability to plan large-scale operations has crumbled, their funding streams are smaller and more closely tracked. Of course, small groups of people can still cause great havoc, but is this movement an "existential threat" to the United States or the Western world? No, because it is fundamentally weak. Al Qaeda and its ilk comprise a few thousand jihadists, with no country as a base, almost no territory and limited funds. Most crucially, they lack an ideology that has mass appeal. They are fighting not just America but the vast majority of the Muslim world. In fact, they are fighting modernity itself.

The evidence supporting this view of the threat was already growing by 2003. Scholars like Benjamin Friedman, Marc Sageman and John Mueller collected much of it. I've been making a similar case in columns and a book since 2004. James Fallows wrote a fine cover essay in The Atlantic in September 2006 arguing that if there was ever a war against militant Islam, it was now over and the latter had lost.

These writings never really changed the debate because they fell into a political vacuum. The right wanted to argue that we lived in scary times and that this justified the aggressive unilateralism of George W. Bush. And the left was wedded to the idea that Bush had screwed everything up and created a frighteningly dangerous world in which the ranks of jihadists had grown. But these days, the director of the CIA himself has testified that Al Qaeda is on the ropes. The journalist Peter Bergen, who in 2007 wrote a cover essay in The New Republic titled "The Return of Al Qaeda," recently wrote another cover essay, "The Unraveling," about the group's decline. The neoconservative Weekly Standard finally recognizes that "the enemy," as it likes to say ominously, is much weaker now, but quickly notes that Bush deserves all the credit. Terrorism is down in virtually every country, including ones that took a much less militaristic approach to the struggle. (Ironically, the two countries where terrorism persists and in some cases has grown as a threat are Iraq and Afghanistan.)

The administration does deserve some credit for its counterterrorism activities. The combined efforts of most governments since 9/11—busting cells in Europe and Asia, tracking money, hunting down jihadist groups—have been extremely effective. But how you see the world determines how you will respond, and the administration has greatly inflated the threat, casting it as an existential and imminent danger. As a result, we've massively overreacted. Bush and his circle have conceived of the problem as military and urgent when it's more of a long-term political and cultural problem. The massive expansion of the military budget, the unilateral rush to war in Iraq, the creation of the cumbersome Department of Homeland Security, the new restrictions on visas and travel can all be chalked up to this sense that we are at war. No cost-benefit analysis has been done. John Mueller points out that in response to a total of five deaths from anthrax, the U.S. government has spent $5 billion on new security procedures.

Of course, this is actually what Osama bin Laden hoped for. Despite his current weakness, he has always been an extremely shrewd strategist. In explaining the goal of the 9/11 attacks, he pointed out that they inflicted about $500 billion worth of damage to the American economy and yet cost only $500,000. He was describing an LTA, a leveraged terrorist attack. But by the same token, the 9/11 attacks caused an economic swoon because of their scope, and because they were the first of their kind. Since then, each successive terrorist attack—in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, Spain, Britain—has had a much smaller effect on the world economy.

We are in a struggle against Islamic extremism, but it is more like the cold war than a hot war—a long, mostly peacetime challenge in which a leader must be willing to use military power but also know when not to do so. Perhaps the wisest American president during the cold war was Dwight Eisenhower, and his greatest virtues were those of balance, judgment and restraint. He knew we were in a contest with the Soviet Union, but—at a time when the rest of the country was vastly inflating the threat—he put it in considerable perspective. Eisenhower refused to follow the French into Vietnam or support the British at Suez. He turned down several requests for new weapons systems and missiles, and instead used defense dollars to build the interstate highway system and make other investments in improving America's economic competitiveness. Those are the kinds of challenges that the next president truly needs to address.

In a sense, the warriors are pessimists. In the old days they were scared that communists would destroy America. Today they rail that Al Qaeda and Iran threaten our way of life. In fact, America is an extremely powerful country, with a unique and extraordinary set of strengths. The only way that position can truly be eroded is by its own actions and overreactions—by unwise and imprudent leadership. A good way to start correcting the errors of the past would be to recognize that we are not at war.

Answer: False

Editor's Note: Fareed Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International, and co-moderator of PostGlobal. His "World View" column and recent pieces for Newsweek can be found here.

Comments (157)

cmc:

Bush has set off a chain of events that no one could have predicted.
we are in a weak position and our enemies know that. Bush is a fool

Chris:

Somali, I hear you. I believe if a world leader did to Christians what George Bush is doing to Muslims we would call him the Anti-Christ. When I have time I need to consider end times prophecy from the Muslim perspective.

RR:

Wow. Washington Post needs to disable comments immediately. Some of what is said is thought-provoking, but a lot of it is dribble or racist.

AJAM:

"each successive terrorist attack—in Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, Spain, Britain...."
Amazing how choosy one can get. The repeated terrorist attacks on India never find a place in the list. What ails the world's leading journalists editors and readers that such omission is routine in any discussion?

Please take a moment to look at the DOD daily contract awards. The sums are consistently impressive.

http://www.defenselink.mil/contracts/

Rantly McTirade:

Of course America's not 'at war'-if we were, people with names like 'Fareed' would have been deported or in internment camps.

XRP2Q:

America possesses a nuclear arsenal under the oceans that could decimate even the most stout enemy, Russia or even China. The very idea that Iran, which so far has not even a tiny fission weapon, could threaten American existentially within the next fifteen or twenty years is preposterous.

John:

Dear Mr. or Ms. Bosco:

Just a couple of things:

Do you really believe that Dickless "Go F___ Yourself" Cheney and the rest of the Bush League of so-called neoconservatives would not love to have the kind of power that Saddam Hussein wielded?

Many of these same folks thought Hussein was such a cool guy, when Iran was last in the POTUS sights, that our gov't thought it very wise to give this dictator's military a few million pounds of high-explosive weaponry, which those same "wise" people were too stupid to police up on the road to "regime change."

And ask the GIs and Iraqis now being blown up daily by that same recycled weaponry about how "we" won the war in a couple of days -- what, seven years ago?

And how many horrific dictators, compared to whom Saddam Hussein was a veritable saint, are busily grinding the people and economies of the nations they rule into the ground? And "we" think that's just hunky-dory, as long as they hold pretend elections every so often, and don't have any oil beneath their territory?

"We," that is, the "troops" we so earnestly support with our Made In China Flag Pins and Little Yellow Ribbon Tailgate Stickers, have an earnest component that's trying to establish order in a strange land. While staying alive, where pretty much every hand is first extended for a payoff, and then reappears holding an AK or B-40 or the trigger of a bomb belt.

Wars and warriors do not build nations. They don't secure peace. Their function is to "find, fix and kill the enemy," whoever their leaders determine the enemy to be, and give young men (and now young women) an outlet for testosterone-driven aggression.

Blogspaces like this mislead all of us. All of what makes up the present state of the world is way too complicated, and mostly invisible, for reduction and analysis via the clever little sound bites and snappy ripostes that appear here.

The people who profit off the chaos we call war know that slogans and propaganda cloud the air as they drive away with one of those literal pallet-loads of $100 dollar greenbacks that have disappeared into Iraq and Afghanistan.

But we only know how to see things through our own perverse little lenses, so all the complex chicanery of political leaders and generals and contractors and war materiel suppliers just simply is invisible, or happens to be a part of one's IRA portfolio. So who cares?

I think the only thing you have right about this situation is the part about killing and letting one God or another sort it all out. But all of us humans now have guns, bombs and knives, whatever our sect or creed. So maybe we are on the right path to letting the Divine Omnipotence sort the sheep from the goats and reward the faithful with virgins or mansions and streets of gold, and cast whoever turns out to be the unbelievers into the Fiery Lake.

Bosco:

Zakaria gets one thing right--we are not at war. We won the war rather handily and rather quickly, deposing a tyrant who terrorized his own people. (Let's not forget what Saddam would have done to most of you on this post had you voiced the criticisms of him that you do of our president.)
No, we're not at war. We're just trying to keep one band of extremists from liquidating the other--and vice versa.
Maybe it is time to withdraw. Let them all kill each other and let Allah sort it out.

Roism007:

Zakaria wrote at the very end of his article...."A good way to start correcting the errors of the past would be to recognize that we are not at war."

I like to add to that...use of correct syntax of words would also be appropriate. For example

"War on Terror" basically means war against terror which is vague and does not energize anything in form of completion.

So far based on my reading and experience, "War On" anything has always lost.


War on Drugs - On going
War on Poverty - On going
War on Terror - On going

Good article for context but little too much sugar coating

Bengt Larsson:

Bush lied in order to get the war started that he wanted*. It was not a mistake. It was what he wanted.

*) in Iraq

Anonymous:

ritch:
We.ve been in this war since 1804...Jefferson's administration against the Barbary Pirates. At least Jefferson had it right. Read "America and the Barbary Pirates:An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe".

I suggest you are not talking about a war but a clash of ideologies. At any rate, they haven't succeeded in destroying our country in 204 years. That should tell you something about how a strong nation and can stand against a determined foe.

We are less strong now, economically, morally, militarily, and politically. We don't need military action to survive, we need only be a strong country again.

You should pay attention to the real lesson of the events you cite. Our nation is far too powerful to be destroyed by this conflicting ideology but we are not to powerful to be destroyed by our own overreaction.

TWstroud:

We are in a war of sorts. Bush is bin Laden's most effective soldier. Or is it the other way around? George's actions have damaged our military capability, currency, constitution and clear conscience before the world. This 'war' has served as a conduit for the net present value of our children's futute to flow into the pockets of Bush's tribe. In a sense, he declared war on ourselves. It is a conflict we were doomed to lose.

NGO:

KSM,

People are killed overseas all the time, the fact that there is some nominal connection between some of the groups claiming responsibility for attacks does not render the current conflict a "hot war". Just out of curiosity, what is the definitional distinction you draw between a "hot" war, "cold war", "conflict", "occupation", or "counter-insurgency"? To lump what in reality is a much different situation in Afghanistan with that in Iraq denies the fundamentally different situations in which the United States Military currently finds itself (unless of course you figure that ethnic tensions between Hazars and Pashtuns are the same as those between Shiites and Sunnis, and that cross border action by Iranian sponsored individuals is the same as a resurgent Taliban's cross border raids from Waziristan).

On a separate note, how does Al Qaeda's "declaration of war" affect the actual status of the conflicts the United States is currently engaged in, especially considering that their existence in Iraq was negligible prior to the U.S. invasion and that AQI is not under the direct control of Bin Laden.

What intelligence reports are you privy too? Since you seem to be under the impression that "only the Bush Administration's effectiveness" is keeping us safe, can you provide me with a scintilla of evidence or other data relating to a terrorist attack that has actually been prevented as a direct result of some exceptional Bush policy? I would also point out that the resurgence of the Taliban and the deterioration of the situtation in Afghanistan is a direct result of prioritizing Iraq in the "War on Terror". For someone who claims to recognize the threat posed by an Al Qaeda controlled Waziristan, from which to operate and plan further attacks, you seem woefully ignorant of the Administrations failure to address this growing threat and instead focus on regime change.

To Fareed, excellent article... its rare to see a well written policy driven polemic in the media.

Michael:

"Since 1945, only one president has not presided over combat that engaged American troops—Jimmy Carter."

And only because EAGLE CLAW was such a spectacular failure that the troops didn't make it there...

KSM:

Fareed,

Your article is riddled with inaccuracies and misjudgments. First, Al-Qaeda declared war on us a while ago and has not withdrawn it. Intelligence reports continue to indicate that this is a threat and only the Bush Administration's effectiveness in repelling the threat and taking it seriously is keeping us safe. You give Bush minimal credit for this for having prevented no attacks on our soil since 9/11.

Second, Al-Qaeda does have a safe haven in Pakistan. For you to either not know or to ignore this is shocking.

Third, Al-Qaeda has killed many people overseas and so it is a hot war.

The problem is that the hot war fits the Bush Administration narrative and not your narrative.

Aren haich:

*** American public has always been gullible. More so when it comes to indulging in bouts of self-pity and self-importance.

Take 9/11. The attack on that Tuesday was the equivalent of a pinprick for a country which is world’s most powerful and richest nation. Yet the gullible Americans were quickly led to believe that 9/11 was the biggest event in the history of the universe since the BIG BANG. They began to talk in terms of a BEFORE and an AFTER 9/11 which overshadowed the B.C. and A.D. of Christian calendar.

Anybody with the most rudimentary sense of objectivity would know that the American military expeditions in Iraq and Afghanistan are mere substitutes for big military exercises in realistic environments.

The exercise can and will continue as long as the military command is willing to extend it. The command HQ can at any time decide to discontinue the effort and wind down, fold in the forces back to their bases.

AMERICA IS NOT AT WAR!

That Fareed Zakaria should have to spend several hours composing this piece to point out something which is so self-evident to the American public is astounding.

Aren haich:

*** American public has always been gullible. More so when it comes to indulging in bouts of self-pity and self-importance.

Take 9/11. The attack on that Tuesday was the equivalent of a pinprick for a country which is world’s most powerful and richest nation. Yet the gullible Americans quickly were led to believe that 9/11 was the biggest event in the history of the universe since the Big bang. They began to talk in terms of a BEFORE and an AFTER 9/11 which overshadowed the B.C. and A.D. of Christian calendar.

Anybody with the most rudimentary sense of objectivity would know that the American military expeditions in Iraq and Afghanistan are mere ubstitutes for big military exercises in realistic environments.

The exercise can and will continue as long as the military command is willing to extend it. The command HQ can at any time decide to discontinue the effort and wind down, fold in the forces back to their bases.

AMERICA IS NOT AT WAR!

That Fareed Zakaria should have to spend several hours composing this piece to point out something which is so self-evident to the American public is astounding.

Somali:

The Terrorist They Call "president" Is The Enemy Of Humanity!!

What always gets neglected in "such a good article" is the NUMBER of Muslim civilians, especially women and children that the Terrorist and War Criminal Americans call "president" has killed in countries he has ILLEGALLY invaded. It is JUST astonishing that the white man's media DO NOT WISH TO MENTION THE HIGH NUMBER OF INOCENET PEOPLE, MAINLY WOMEN AND CHUILDREN, mass murdered by the Terrorist. In Somalia, which Mr Zakaria NEVER mentions, 10,000 CIVILIANS, mostly women and children have been massacred for the "interests" of The terrorist and his population and their country. What are these "interests" that require the mass murder of women and children?

In Iraq, the number is 1,000,000 or MORE. Mostly women and children, again. The Terrorist took his cowardly troops into Iraqi and Somali CITIES and thus the mass murder of women and children.

In Afghanistan, I don't know the number, but it must ben running into the TENS OF THOUSANDS. All in all, the Terrorist and his so-called "war" on Muslims have killed more than a million CIVILIANS in many different countries. This RIVALS the records of such ugly, monstrous creatures such as Hitler, Musolini and Stalin and Pol Pot.

And thus it shocks me and it frightens me that so-called writers and so-called journalists such as this gentleman write at length about the Terrorist and his crimes in the Muslim world without EVER, EVER mentioning or CONDEMNING the huge numbers of the poor, innocent women and children killed by the Terrorist Americans call "president". Why is this Mr Zakaria? Do you think we are NOT human to you Americans? Or may be you think the millionas your terrorist keeps attacking and killing have NO FRIENds, families, neighbourhoods? Or may be you think, Mr Zakaria, we don't FEEL LOSE, Pain? Why do the deaths of sooooooo MANY innocent people for what the terrorist keeps, shockingly, describes as "AMerica's interests", why don't these deaths matter to you people? You hate Muslims sooo much you don't care how many of their children and women you kill and massacre?

It is perhaps WHy you call those you mass murder in the Muslim world "colateral damage." We are just nothing but this monstrous, meaningless word to them!!!!

There's NO justice in the white man's world. If there was, the Terrorist they call "president" would have been hang from a ROPE a few years ago!!

ZZim:

Some folks here have portrayed Al Qaeda as much less of a threat than it appeared to be on 9/11. That's not precisely true. AQ accomplished something no other attacker has ever achieved - a mass casualty attack on the US mainland. But since the nothing? Why not? Is it possible that AQ was never as strong as they appeared?

The answer is yes and no. You see, before 9/11 they were a powerful organization with a global reach dominating their chosen field of combat. This is true or they would not have achieved such dramatic successes during the Clinton Administration leading up to 9/11.

However, this success - although real - created only the illusion of power. The US has real power. Millions of citizens. Legitimate status as a nation. Professional armed services. Effectively unlimited industrial and financial power. The minute we decided to act, the minute we decided to fight, AQ lost. We just shifted a teensy bit of our power into the anti-terrorism arena and became the 800-lb gorilla in a room full of lightwieghts.

Since then the illusion has evaporated. Some of you even question whether or not AQ was ever really winning. The answer is yeah, they were - while we weren't paying attention. Then they got our attention.

Terrorist and bandits and guerrillas are always successful until their success finally attracts the attention of competent legitimate authorities. Then they are destroyed. This is only iteration seven billion of the same old story. Success leads to notice leads to destruction.

lawmeal:

It was a good article and I agree with its conclusions -- but an aside to bassetwranger: Fareed supported our invasion of Iraq but not on WMD grounds (he never accepted the propositon that Iraq was such an emminent danger to jusify our preemtive attack). As I recall, he thought Sadam represented a one-of-a-kind rationale for overthrow. Am I wrong?

Peter, Burlington, VT:

Fareed,

You are articulate and wise. We need you!!! Please consider a position in the upcoming Obama Administration.

L.Kurt Engelhart:

Dr H: "Bush's over reaction has done nothing more than elevate Al Qaida's status"

Imagine: The Bush administration financially supporting Al Qaida and pseudo-Muslim threats in order to justify US resources being given to Republican henchmen. See Bin Laden as being Bush's socio-economic superior as the reason he has not been captured.

Tell me nothing like this has ever happened before.

HLB Engineering:

America hasn't been at war since WWII. Korea was a "police action." Vietnam was an insurgency mostly with no real armed combat with the Vietnam regulars. And U.S. dead stacked like cord wood to make first LBJ, then Nixon, feel like they were real players in the grand, global power stage. It wasn't for nothing that they both chose to stay out of WWII as real combatants.

Gulf I was a cakewalk. Gulf II was the afterbirth of Gulf I coming back to life and strangling the U.S. with the umbilical cord. The cord blood still spreads throughout the region.

The other mindless little interventions were just that [Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Lebanon, Haiti, Kosovo,..]. Pointless exercises of Olympian oily ego tossed together with the sour vinegar of human suffering and abject misery.

Winner? No one.

War? What war? Mere posturing, over-reach, and folly.

Thanks much. Vietnam Draftee/Veteran

lawmeal:

It was a good article and I agree with its conclusions -- but an aside to bassetwranger: Fareed supported our invasion of Iraq but not on WMD grounds (he never accepted the propositon that Iraq was such an emminent danger to jusify our preemtive attack). As I recall, he thought Sadam represented a one-of-a-kind rationale for overthrow. Am I wrong?

upstateJohnny:

I found this especially interesting as for the past few months it has occurred to me that history's assessment of 9/11, the Islamic jihadists and the reaction of the West to this threat, will be that we misjudged the power and extend of Al-Qaeda and that our response (and rhetoric) went far beyond what was required. I've hesitated to even bring this subject up as this is absolute heresy, if not treason, to many, as is evident in looking through other postings. But looking back, societies have often seen grave, even existential threats in small extremist groups, which are always vocal (or media savvy)and whose stock-in-trade are violent acts calculated to produce the most horror and disgust amongst the population in general. The anarchists and nihilists of the 19th century immediately come to mind. Technology has for some time provided us with the means and opportunity for a small group to create highly destructive devices, along with a complex infrastructure that can be easily damaged and disrupted. That is what we should be aware of and, unfortunately, get accustomed to. We will always have the handful of 9/11 terrorists or the Timothy McVeighs to deal with. But as movements, these extremeists rarely, if ever succeed, and societies are able to deal with them by addressing the real, tangible, issues that gave life to these movements (the Haymarket Square rally, which resulted in the infamous bombing, was called to push for an eight hour work day). Once these real probelms are addressed, or once it becomes clear there will be changes forthcoming, these movements lose their impetus. That should be our strategy when we are, as a society, faced with this type of threat. Rhetoric which defines these groups as representing everything inimical to our values and "way of life" and therefore any attempt to address any real grievance or issue they have broached is "surrendering to the enemy", this rhetoric is counter-productive. And instead of stamping out these groups, it sustains them and allows them to continue to recruit.

L.Kurt Engelhart:

The most significant war US citizens have to face is the war on the ignorant, arrogant powerful who have a strangle hold on this country. I would like to say that this is just Republicans, but that would be passing over the many Democrats who are Republican look-alikes. The term "war on" is obvious rhetoric supposed to describe fear, enemies, and inevitable violent conflict, implying the speaker has the ability to protect from this threat if you will only give them the power. Our current government takes this power and uses it only on its own behalf. They understand their tenure is fragile, so they intend to get as much as they can before they are removed from office. After moving vast amounts of US resources into the Middle-East, these people will move their center of operations there when they are no longer in favor here.

lawmeal:

It was a good article and I agree with its conclusions -- but an aside to bassetwranger: Fareed supported our invasion of Iraq but not on WMD grounds (he never accepted the propositon that Iraq was such an emminent danger to jusify our preemtive attack). As I recall, he thought Sadam represented a one-of-a-kind rationale for overthrow. Am I wrong?

Tom3:

"What worries me is that if the election is close, the Republicans will steal it again. All they have to do is get it close enough so they can take it."

I hear the "Diebold Spread" is 6 points.

Obama is currently leading McLame by 6 points.

Can the Repukes steal another election? They sure can!!

Tom3:

Congress NEVER declared war and their authorization of force in Iraq is NOT a Constitutional declaration of war.

So, legally Chimpy is NOT a "War Preznit" and never was one.

Repukes live in a Bizzaro World where war is peace and slavery is freedom. Sounds familiar.

oscar bullfrog:


Oh, good grief, "charlie browns," (et al.), answer: True!

your myopic views of a "war" panorama is breath-takingly frightening in its myopia. America and its "last, best hope" has been "at war" since 1789-ish (starting with the barbary pirates) and will continue to defend humanity.

however, you can create the defeat from within with your ignorant grip on reality (darwinism? ... malthus-ism?).

learn from history; learn some history.

in the shorter run, quoting dabrack,

"We are faced with an enemy that kills every American he can get close to and has said publicly on video and audio that he is at war with us. What more do you need to consider this a war?"

Mainegirl:

THE BIGGEST LONG TERM THREAT TO THIS COUNTRY IS ANOTHER REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION--PERIOD!!

Worried American:

Hopefully, after January 2009, we can put Bush and the years of misery he inflicted behind us.

What worries me is that if the election is close, the Republicans will steal it again. All they have to do is get it close enough so they can take it.

orbiter dictum:

Bush may be a war president -- a FAILED war president.

It is long past time to declare war against Bush and the Republican rabble that have cost America and the American people so much. I cannot believe that this little idiot is still in office --

bassetwrangler:

I've followed Fareed Zakaria's reporting for years and he has been consistent in his criticism of the manufactured "wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan. As with every reality-based observer, he has been shouted down by the ignorant who regurgitate every new Bush administration slogan.

As John Kerry pointed out in his campaign and as the governments of Great Britain and Spain responded to similar terrorist acts, the 9/11 events should have been treated primarily as criminal acts. Bush and his conspirators took a big problem and made it a huge one (mostly for America).

If the Bush administration is as inept at covering the tracks of their many crimes as they have we just about everything else we will hopefully find them prosecuted as war criminals. And that would be appropriate justice for our Wartime President.

Rajeev:

Fareed, it would be appropriate to put Mumbai commuter train attacks of July 11, 2006 as terrorist attacks alongside all the other ones you cited in your column.

Rich Rosenthal:

Posted on July 7, 2008 08:12

Cheez:
"Terrorism is a 'weapon'". Terrorism is more of an ideology and you can't fight an ideology.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Yes, ideology can be defeated with a superior ideology. 99+% of the people of this planet want peace and happiness. We are more than happy to adopt any religion, ideology or principles that delivers.
Bush's policies are not delivering but AQ policies are delivering MUCH less so intellectual bottom feeders can claim some success but at the expense of a much better policy and greater humanitarian results.

Dr H:

Nailed it.

Al Qaida was never a global threat. An international threat? Yes. But a global threat? Never. And Bush's over reaction has done nothing more than elevate Al Qaida's status, increase their donation coffers, and fill their ranks with scores of new recruits since the invasion of Iraq.

Iran is an excellent example of Bush's incompetent characterization of Al Qaida. During the early operations in Afghanistan in 2001, Iran was helping us tremendously with intelligence against the Taliban and Al Qaida. That Shia-dominated government hated the Sunni Taliban and Al Qaida more than we did. Then Bush declared the Khatami government part of an "Axis of Evil" and expanded the response to 9/11 to include terrorists everywhere in the world...a "Global War on Terror." The Iranian clerics kicked all the moderates who supported Khatami's reforms out of their 2002 elections and now the Shia fundamentalists are stronger than ever. Bush's cowboy cockiness pulled the rug out from under Iran's reform movement and set that country back decades, where they are seeking more violent militant ways of exerting power in the region.

Consider Bush an incompetent fire fighter. He's been setting backfires upwind for the past 7 years.

After 7 years of Bush's bumbling, the military struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq are tremendously expensive and might be considered wars, but they're not. We don't even have 25% of the forces we used in DESERT STORM engaged in OIF and OEF. Of course those operations were competently completed within the guidelines of the Weinberger Doctrine with clear objectives, overwhelming national and international (Powell Doctrine) participation, and an exit strategy. So they could afford to devote over a million troops from an internatioal coalition force to the cause.

I will have to say one thing about OIF though. The food is better than during DESERT STORM.

Peter:

Unfortunately, Fareed fails to remember that the continental US was not directly attacked during WWI (other than a couple shots by a Uboat against a CapeCod beach), WWII (a Jap few balloons with bombs)and the Cold War. This weak group you refer to (AQ) caused billions of damage on the soil of the US. Al Queda accomplished in a couple hours what Hitler, Stalin, and Hirohito would have loved to achieve. You are totally confused by the size of the group and their ability/desire to inflict destruction.

The "War of Poverty" - Not a war.
The "War on Drugs" - Not a war.
The "War on Terror" - Not a war.

The War on Iraq has destroyed the lives of 3 generations of Iraqis by creating 5 years of terror, destruction of institutions, families, and infrastructure, and causing mass exodus from home and country.

For Americans, not so much. Well done Bushie!

Tweaked:

Perhaps President Bush should be asking President Eisenhower about his golf game!

Krishna:

"Nick: Well written article and absolutely true. Of course any informed, intelligent, thoughtful citizen had come to these conclusions five years ago. - Posted July 7, 2008 9:33 AM "

Well, five years ago, Bush etal were enjoying tremendous support for their war. Rumsfeld was treating the press corps with disdain, scorn and sarcasm. The "Red Staters" were flexing their muscle.

The MSM pundits (take your pick - David Broder, Fareed Zakaria, Chris Mathews, Bob Woodward etal) couldn't come to these conclusions, as they were "unpopular" then. Now that the war is seen for the utter travesty and the dismal failure that it is, they can boldly put forth what everybody already knows.

These guys value "access" so much they won't upset the apple cart, until they are certain beyond a shadow of doubt that it is time to change their Rolodex for a new set of contacts. They smell that in the air.

Zakaria says "Mr. Bush's policies since December of 2001 have been disastrous. Iraq could have been successfully contained with renewed inspections ". If Zakaraia wrote a column expressing this view in 2002, or 2003, I would like to see that.

Now that the oil companies have been allocated speific areas of Iraq to explore for new oil, we can better understand why it is necessary for our armed forces to continue their occupancy of the country. Perhaps we can make them pay for the protection costs!

Matt:

No other president would call himself a war president. No other president would be proud of the fact he was sending our men and women out to die for our country.

Paul R. Cooper:

I tried to get attention years ago to the writer's view that we are not at war. I think Bush & Co. calculated that declaring from the beginning that we "are at war", as Bush said explicitly almost immediately after 9/11, would yield to the administration the long strong of extra-ordinary powers which attend a country at war. And why could not Congress pass a resolution declaring that we are NOT at war, reversing the claims to extraordinary powers captured by wartime presidents, especially this one?

ritch:

We.ve been in this war since 1804...Jefferson's administration against the Barbary Pirates. At least Jefferson had it right. Read "America and the Barbary Pirates:An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe".

ErrinF:

Why don't we ask Bob Ney or Tom DeLay if we are at war or not? After all, they are the Republican politicians that claimed we were in a life and death struggle against Al Qaeda, then flew off to Scotland to play golf on a junket paid for by lobbyists. Actions speak louder than words... if we were truly in a great war that threatened our lives, the GOP wouldn't have let so much corruption run rampant under their watch. Think of all the GOP scandals that have taken place during the Bush years, including Mark Foley, Larry Craig, etc... Republican politicians can talk up themselves as much as they like, but their actions speak much louder. All the American people ever did was give the GOP a chance... that chance was blown by the GOP and Bush, and now they are paying the political price for such. Karl Rove is an abject failure, as are the lies he tried to prop up Bush with. Let the conservatives blindly defend the Rovian way of deliberate lies. The electoral consequences of fielding such a losing strategy will be much greater this year than they were in 2006.

bob:

Legally we are not at war -- Article I reserves that power to Congress; the same Article gives the Senate the power to ratify a treaty of peace. Had Dubya taken his inaugaral oath to support and defend the constitution as a serious vow, he might have made it into the history books as a "war president" (like Wilson, FDR and Truman -- or to a lesser extent Madison, Polk or even the reluctant McKinley). As it stands, W's just another politician with blood on his hands.

ErrinF:

It must be pointed out that no firebreathing dragons have attacked America since 9/11. And no Martian invasion has taken place. Therefore, we must credit George W Bush for preventing firebreathing dragons and Martian invasions these last 7 years.

THAT is the logic of the Bushies, who never want to hold Bush accountable for the massive terrorist attack on 9/11 that happenned right under Bush's nose. They'll give him all the credit for preventing nothing since then, without any proof that Al Qaeda has even tried to strike again since 9/11 or that Bush and company prevented such an attack.

All the conservatives have these days are Rovian lies they pull out of thin air. The blind partisans that support Bush no matter what care nothing for the truth of the matter. They just want to put out whatever lie they can to weakly prop up Bush and the Republicans. Specious reasoning is what it is called. That's fine... these crazy right wing arguments only serve to alienate the right from the rest of the voting public. Bush gets no credit for preventing phantom attacks that have yet to take place; Instead, he gets plenty of blame for the real terrorist attack on 9/11 that he never saw coming. The man took an oath to defend this country to the best of his abilities, and all it lead to was 9/11 right under his nose. We all know that Bush is an incompetent leader, and it is merely empty lies that try to create the illusion of competency on his part. Truth is, the Global War On Terror is over... Al Qaeda won it, and the Republican party lost it.

Bob:

Fareed -- Ike would be proud of you. The apparent self-annointment of Bush as "War President" directly reflected Karl Rove's realization in Feb 2002 that the GOP would be running on the war. This worked in the fall elections of 2002 and in the presidential election of 2004 but stopped working by 2006. Israel has and continues to be the target of terrorist attacks but does knows when it is "at war" (6-Day War, Yom Kippur War) and when it is not. The current administration created and continues to foster the myth that we are "at war" for pure political advantage even though this strategy has ceased being effective. Their perseveration is not surprising since it comes from people who were never properly suited for national leadership in the first place and they are fundamentally incapable of the task at hand.

Yuri Lipitzmeov:

Maybe is we defined war in more classical terms then we wouldn't be so conflicted, so to speak. In my book, "war" means that you are out to totally destry your enemy. If that means destroying their infrastructure and their ability to feed themselves. It also means that we don't blink an eye in pursuing tose goals, even if so-call innocent people get hurt. We didn't blink an eye when we had to firebomb German cities and nuke the daylights out of Japan.

Bush describing himself as a war president is a joke. Mr tough guy is nothing but a macho show off trying to make up for a whole lot of psychological shortcomings in a president who has the intellect of a clam, and that is being unkind to the clam.

max:

Psst! Peope those are over-acting are reactionary. Surely, immediate action for US to bomb some place aftermath of 911, its more desirable masculine thing to do, than really thoughtfully executing a long-term policy. This is new american century, the mighty US has to act!

Bush, history will judge, started the fall of new Saigon!

ZZim:

No Gary, we could not all die. Fareed is correct in that. What isn't clear is whether or not there are threats that do not rise to the level of an existential threat that need to be confronted using war-like methods in order to be effective.

I assert that there are such threats, that the terrorist threat is one. I further assert that we have done so effectively and that effectiveness is proof that we have chosen the correct method.

I don't think Fareed disagrees with any of that, I just think he's trying to deflate George Bush's accomplishments by asserting that he isn't a "war-time President".

Personally I don't care, history will make it's own judgments. What I do care about is that the next President separates politics from policy and acknowledges (at least privately) our success so far and continues George Bush's successful policies.

JT:

The average American family has spent what, $20,000, 25,000? in the past few years on this "non-war"? Taxes have not gone up, yet, but we will---and already are in terms of bad economy---pay dearly for this war. In addition to the sacrifice in lives lost and lives ruined. Financial smoke and mirrors of this magnitude did not exist in WWII. It IS a war.

Gary E. Masters:

Fareed Zakaria you are flat out wrong. This is war. We could all die.

Jeff Crocket:

'America (and before it, Britain) has felt it was "at war" when the conflict threatened the country's basic security—not merely its interests or its allies abroad.'

Our nation's seat of economic power, and the seat of it's military command was directly attacked on September 11th 2001. Almost three thousand military, police, and civilians were killed. Wall Street was shut down, the airlines was shut down. Movement of financial transactions stopped as airlines couldn't deliver checks to banks. This crippled the Federal Reserve banks ability to process. The visual iconic image of world trade disappeared to ashes.

Not a direct act of war??? Fareed, this is a naive almost silly statement, delivered with an underlying political bias. Smart people aren't supposed to be 'Dumb'. Get over it!

And then, there are the bombings of sovereign U.S. Embassies - acts of war. The attack and attempted sinking of U.S.S. Cole - A vessel of the fleet!!

Larry R. Lugnut:

OK! OK! I'll get it right yet! Here goes: To talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk, Farood. You don't look too old and our Armed Forces definitely need your experience and talents. Run - don't walk - to the nearest recruiting center. There!

ZZim:

Skeptonomist say that "martial law can only be declared when civil law is inoperative - martial law can never apply except when actual conditions, such as riots or rebellions, make the civil authorities incapable of keeping order"

So doesn't that support my premise? I agree that there are conflicts that need to be handled as a military matter rather than a civil one. Fareed wants to call them "wars" but you don't. Fareed also doesn't want to call a President who conducts wars that do not pose an existential threat to the nation a "wartime president". I'm actually fine with that, since it's just a semantical argument intended to devalue the sitting President's acheivements (which Fareed acknowledges).

I suppose part of our disagreement is many believe that the conflict with the terrorists needs to be treated as a civil matter because that would be more efftective. I would argue that treating it as a non-civil military matter has in fact been very effective - so where's the problem?

Civil authorities (using police methods) failed to prevent terrorist attacks, military authorities (using "war" methods) succeeded. Therefore, that was the right approach.

Larry R. Lugnut:

To talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk, Farood. You don't look too old and our Armed Forces defitiely need you experience and talents. Run - don't walk - to the nearest recruiting center

Dave:

How the h%*l you ever got past the eighth grade is a mystery to me, Mr. Zakaria. When soldiers are shooting at people, ransacking their homes, taking over their country and getting killed maimed, this is called "war." Although, you're probably not as stupid as you want us to think you are. You apparently are smart enough to know that most Americans need to feel good and be lied to, or we might DO SOMETHING DRASTIC and say, vote Democratic!

Next week: How nuking Iran isn't "really" a nuclear attack or well, is, like, OK anyhow.

dabrack:

Mr. Zakaria:
We are faced with an enemy that kills every American he can get close to and has said publicly on video and audio that he is at war with us. What more do you need to consider this a war?

AtlantaBill:

Fareed - what an excellent and insightful article. Hopefully, other courageous journalists will extricate themselves from the cesspool of bs planted by the bush administration and become "real" journalists as well. The notion that "we are at war" is an insulting myth that should be rejected by any true American, especially those of us that were around during WWII. Surely, others will reflect on this "mythical war" at some not too distant point in the future and reach the same conclusion that you so eloquently point out.

I have believed all along that the so called war is nothing more than a myth. What's amazing however is how the media thus far has played along. The latter indicates that another myth should also be recognized - the so called "free and independent press" is a myth as well. The corporate media (tv & talk radio) all are owned and operated by corporate elitist and cannot be trusted any longer to provide news independent of government influence. Iger/ABC, Immelt/NBC, Parsons/CNN, and Murdoch/Fox CONTROL what our so called journalists can and do say. The latter argues for the reinstatement of the "fairness doctrine" in some form. Former president Eishehowser recognized and warned us of the evils of the "military/industrial" complex and its ability to supplant our notion of a government "of, for, and by the people."

skeptonomist:

Being at war, even when formally declared against a recognized enemy, does not justify the President, as commander-in-chief of the military, to preempt civil law. In ex parte Milligan (71 US 2 [1866]), a case of a suspected spy during the Civil War being tried by the military, the Supreme Court ruled that martial law can only be declared when civil law is inoperative - martial law can never apply except when actual conditions, such as riots or rebellions, make the civil authorities incapable of keeping order. Habeas Corpus can be suspended only in cases of rebellion or invasion.

Murphy1960:

Mr Zakaria, I think your comments are right on target. The "War on Terror" was a marketing phrase from day one, much like the "War on Poverty" or the "War on Drugs" before it.

Thanks for your insight.

Bill:

Excellent article. The right loves the idea that we are at war because it allows them to introduce the draconian measures they have so longed for. However, the US is no more at war in realistic terminology that we were with the War on Drugs.

linda laird:

Of course we are not at war. It just sounds good in small bites. We have been at war of some kind or other since before I was born in 1942 WWII (at least it was semi-righteous and probably necessary); the Korean War (the Medieval model for Mr. McCain's Hundred Year War);itty bitty wars where we dipped a toe & got out quick; Vietnam where we completely bogged down and got out butts kicked; and the strangest of all the internal domestic wars (LBJ's war on poverty; our crazy and mostly useless war on drugs. The very word "war" has become so perverted that anyone with the sense God gave geese would understand that it is just another way to promote public fear and feed the industrial military complex, making a few rich and most of us nervously poor. I suppose it is too simplistic to just say no to war, oops that was used in the war on drugs (and young hormones too).

Gator-ron:

We need a well versed intelligent president. One who is versed on the many problems for this country. For only if he has a handle on these many problems will he be able to weigh the relative importance of each. If Mr Bush had that talent we might never be in the quagmire we're in. What we need is a president with good judgment which means it is truly a time for a change.

clownbuster:

You all are clowns. This Zakaria puppet needs a boyfriend.

You all go around the world, killing innocent people to steal their stuff, and then talk about the jihadists wanting us dead. Of course they do. If anyone killed my father, raped and sodomized my brother and sister, tortured my uncle and committed genocide upon my people, I WOULD WANT THEM DEAD TOO.

When the oil runs out, and the jihadists REALLY come after us, we'll be too fat to run to the mountains. They will then exert JUSTICE upon our fat behinds.

Amir

ZZim:

Fareed, I don't understand how you can simultaneously argue that the war on terror doesn't exist and that it has been such a huge success that there is no longer a war on terror.

Or have I totally misunderstood?

Why does there have to be an existential threat to be at war? Maybe we can be at war over a threat that doesn't arise to the existential level? Has it occurred to you that a state of war is sometimes necessary in order to be effective in confronting an attacker?

Basically you seem to be arguing that we should treat the war on terror as a police matter. If we treat it as a police matter reather than a war, we will be less effective. And that's OK with you. It's not OK with me.

Richard:

Bush has said in the past that he's the "War President" and "I have war on my mind." He was convinced even before he decided to bomb, invade and occupy a broken country, Iraq, that only war presidents achieve the acclaim historians so often write about in describing either great presidents or great leaders of the past. Therefore, it follows that Bush perceives himself as the "War President" no matter what others say or think.

Most soldiers come back from Iraq or Afghanistan often angry and dismayed that the public view of this war doesn't demand much, if any, sacrifice on the part of most Americans. But, whose fault is that? For one, we are never shown the pictures of returning flag-draped coffins being unloaded from cargo planes at Dover AFB. We seldom see the wounded, the scarred-for-life, dismembered returning veterans other than some feel-good ceremonies scripted for their propaganda value.

Think of Pat Tillman. It's a classic case of where the military in their attempts to cover up serious mistakes, turned those mistakes into feel-good recruiting posters. Pat Tillman, ex-pro football player, signs up to serve his country in Afghanistan. Tillman gets shot and killed accidentally by his own troops but is awarded a Silver Star for valor and a posthumous promotion.

Bush did not finish the war in Afghanistan when the American public and the civilized world stood behind us. Instead, the war president bit off more than he could chew when he decided he wanted to immolate tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children and put 4,013 U.S. military in body bags when he preemptively bombed Iraq.

Now, because of Bush's ignorance and hubris, we are fighting wars on two fronts: one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. His favorite dictator and puppet, Pervez Musharraf, has no power in Pakistan while that country's new leadership is distancing themselves from Bush's Faustian pact he made in 2002 which has cost the U.S. taxpayers over $8 billion.

In the meantime, Americans go to the mall to show their patriotism and heed G. W. Bush's exhortation to "Spend! Spend." War? What war? Just lower those gas prices so I can get to the Big Box stores and buy the latest widgets.

The "War President," it seems, has turned out to be nothing more than a blowhard, small-minded politician who has held Americans hostage to his ego by perpetuating a disastrous, unnecessary and costly war in Iraq. It is that Bush legacy historians will not, and cannot, ignore.

rd:

In general, most of the world wants to become like the US. China, India, other developing countries want to have something similar to an American style of living with modifications based on their cultures and situations. The Jihadists want to bring the world into their "Dark Ages" thinking that would preclude most of the worlds population from achieving their aspirations to a higher level of prosperity. As a result, they are doomed to failure from the start although they may take some people down with them on their way to failure. We can only lose if we become afraid of people who are doomed to fail in the long run.

Our real war is the one where we put fundamental principles, laws, and ecomonic structures in place to position ourselves for the 21st century as well as we did for the 20th century.

DEF:

Unfortunately, Americans are terminally gullible.

..

David L:

There would be no argument about Fareed's article if George W Bush hadn't so effectively conflated the threat of terrorism with the threats of Sadaam Hussein's Iraq.

The "Global War on Terror" was a police action - both in the military sense - the quick support of an armed rebellion against the Taliban, and in the civilian sense - cracking down on Al Qaeda supporters, funding, and networks world-wide. Clearly this is a battle that was won - although like any police action, you have to keep up the vigilance, or the gangs can come back and set up shop again.

Would anyone be talking about a "War" based on the 500 deaths in Afghanistan? More soldiers die in training accidents in the US than that over a 7 year period.

If anything, by calling Iraq part of the Global War on Terror, GWB and his allies are continuing to promote the fallacy that the war on Iraq had anything to do with Al Qaeda. The sad part is, the destruction to the fabric of Iraqi society has created a situation where terrorism can actually find adherents, and GWB has created what he set off to stop.

David L

ep:

"It is by now overwhelmingly clear that Al Qaeda and its philosophy are not the worldwide leviathan that they were once portrayed to be. Both have been losing support over the last seven years. The terrorist organization's ability to plan large-scale operations has crumbled, their funding streams are smaller and more closely tracked."

______________________________________

But wiat a minute. I thought this evil Bush administration was responsible for vastly increasing terrorist recruiting and the alQaeda philosophy. At least that's what the media tells me. That going into Iraq was the greatest gift we ever could ahve given to bin Laden.

Interesting time frame you have postulated here. "They have been losing support OVER THE LAST SEVEN YEARS." Gee, what else has been going on during that time?

But God forbid we give the Bush administration credit for anything. Maybe it's BECAUSE they have been treating this as a war and not, as liberlas would prefer, as a law enforcement exercise, that we HAVE been so successful in diminishing that support, tracking the money streams and disrupting their ability to carry out large-scale operations.

Strange how this article just seems to gloss right over that.

rebecca:

"Al Qaeda is ...a political and cultural problem"...
Only?How did you lose the religious aspect, Mr. Zakaria?
Everything, from lowly suicidal bomber to the 9/11 is motivated in there by a homophobic Political Islam with the fundamentalist fanatical Islamists as the founders, perpetrators and ideologues of the movement. How come, you missed it?

GMT:

“John:
Anybody else getting the sense that us humans are a dead-end species? That the tribal thinking wired into our brains by (wired ???? ) millenia of "Darwinism" won't allow the vast majority of us to approach our time here in any healthy or self-sustaining way? “

Ever consider it may be memes rather than genes? From kindergarten on our children, especially the boys, are steeped in playing games that produce winners and losers. Losers are "cursed" (literally & figuratively). Perhaps it would help if all our sports were more like mountain climbing; i.e. everyone connected. If one person goes over the edge, everyone goes.

JLuciano:

Respectfully, I disagree.

The 'War on Terror' is a modern war. Thus, it gives new definition to war - perhaps not changing it - but at least adding another alternate definiton.

Its also impoertant to separate the war in Iraq from the war on terror - whether just or unjust - they are different. The war in Iraq is traditional - troops on the ground, daily casualties and protest at home.

The war on terror is being faught with technology, clandestine operations and out of the public eye the majority of the time - not a war by traditional definition, but a war none-the-less.

PJC:

Fareed, while I have admired your columns in News Week for years, and I have usually found your logic and analysis to be extremely perceptive, I think you have overlooked the fact that there have been major winners in Bush's Invasion and occupation of Iraq. While we are still fighting the Terrorist in Afghanastan, the war we started in Iraq has been won

Haliburton, Bechtel, KRB, Blackwater, CACI, and many of the other war profiteers with political connections to the White House have won big.

When we pay a mercenary 3-4 times what we pay our service people for doing the same job, provide the mercenaries with better equipment, little to no accountability and give the dirty jobs to our troops, the mercenaries have won big time in the invasion.

When we give Haliburton, Bechtel & KRB. Billions in no-bid contracts prior to the Iraq invasion, they too are big winners.

When we pay these billions to off shore companies representing Haliburton, Bechtel and KRB so they can avoid paying the US taxes that Bush already cut on their behalf, they have won and won big.

Now that Shell and Exxon have secured their contracts for the Iraq oil fields, they too are big winners, with crude at $145 a barrel and climbing.

However, there is another side of that coin, "Who were the loosers?"

Iraq traded a dictator for a civil war that turned millions of Iraqies into refugees and killed thousands of their own countrymen and women. So, it is obvious that Iraqi civilians are one of the major loosers in this illegal invasion.

Our Constitution was suspended by the the Bush conspiritors, and our democracy turned into the exact type of monarchy rule that 232 years ago we declared independence from. Civil liberties were declared by our criminal president as being suspended and superceeded by the simple passage of the Patriot Act. So it certainly appears the civil liberties of the America citizens have lost big in this invasion.

America has used it's credit card to finance this executive branch's criminal activities and cash feeding frenzy to politically connected war profiteers, and generations of Americans not even born yet will still be paying for it. So again America citizens have lost big in this invasion.

Bush will go back to Texas and will not be held accountable for his crimes, criminal conspiracy against the United States of America, traitorist actions, under the old Gerald Ford rational of instead of prosecuting him we pardon him to begin the "Healing the Country", which he used to pardon our earlier criminal president Nixion.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Scooter et. al. will all profit greatly from their criminal activities long after they are out of office for they will be in a better position to capitalize on their oil investments and partnerships. Again the American People are the loosers.

The almost 40,000 American service people wounded or killed in following the orders of a commander in chief, who was not then, and is not now acting in America's best interest, but in the interests of his biggest supporters. These service people will never know the normality of life they experienced or envisioned prior to the Bush ordered invasion of Iraq. These people are huge loosers as a result of the Bush criminal conspiracy and lies, for they served their country with honor and with their trust in their leaders wisdom. Our service people have suffered loss their mental stabliity, their family unit stability, their trust in America's leadership, and in thousands of cases, they have lost their limbs, their loved ones and their lives.

It is easy to see why from the prespection of George W. Bush the war criminal and his co conspirtors and supporters, the surge worked and the invasion of Iraq was well worth the price they had to pay. The didn't pay a price, they collected big time. For the promise of billions of dollars in donations, contributions and gifts, I too would make the supreme sacrafice and give up golf.

Nick:

Well written article and absolutely true. Of course any informed, intelligent, thoughtful citizen had come to these conclusions five years ago.

ChuckB:

Regardless of what they might have actually have been, almost all the military adventures of Britain in the 19th century were labled wars, and that is how they are designated today: the Opium Wars of 1839-1842 and 1856-1860, the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the Boer Wars of 1880-1881 and 1899-1902, and the Anglo-Afghan Wars of 1838-1842, 1843-1880 and 1919-1921. None of these would be seen as major conflicts on the scale of the World Wars, but they were and continue to be called wars. Already more Americans have died in Iraq and Afghanistan than died in the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Indian Wars. Considering the number of deaths in such wars as the Spanish American war attributed to disease and primitive medical attention, our current "war" is probably more intense than that and other wars we have been engaged in. Tell the troops we are not at war.

Richard Broadwell:

If George W Bush had been President during World War II, we would all be speaking German now.

Bob Miller:

While we can debate about conflict and War there
are legal definitions and etc that I have forgotten over the years.

Basically.. because GOD BUSH declared a 'WAR ON TERROR' and Congress voted on the same said 'WAR' we are at WAR WITH TERRORISTS.. where ever we may find them.

This declaration of War was a POLITICAL AND LEGAL declaration made by GOD BUSH and his political cronies. A 'war president' has more POWER and can HIDE more decisions and etc. This is what has been done by our 'war president'.

Many of the decisions he and his cronies have made.. can be HIDDEN because they were made during a time of war.

It will take years and decades for the American people to fully understand what has been allowed to occur on this PRESIDENT's Watch.

And he and his cronies will get off with no penalties... because IT WAS A TIME OF WAR.

Richard:

Matt, thanks for responding to my comment. I think you set up a straw man by somehow characterizing my comment as suggesting that Iraq was "filled with Islamic extremists", presumably before the current intervention. I don't believe you'll find any such statement in my comment, nor was that the focus of the point I was making.

The intervention in Iraq may have been wise or stupid at the time as part of an overall strategy to contain the risk that AQ would aquire real means of mass destruction, but we are there now and do need policies to obtain the best achievable outcome going forward (an outcome that appears increasingly likely to be quite favorable, indeed, in contrast to expectations just a year or so ago). It is unlikely those policies are best formulated by focusing the argument on whether (or not) the original intervention was an error in judgment.

Of course, one could make the case that ex ante, intervening in Iraq was justified as part of this struggle even if Iraq wasn't inhabited by AQ at the time -- there were related theories supporting an intervention which may or may not have proven valid subsequently, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight.

Gregg:

Anytime a country invades another without their consent it is an act of war.
When you then kill not only armed resisters but also innocent civilians it is an act of war.
When you then continue to occupy the country for years without relinquishing control to the locals it is an act of war.
When you do so without a plan it is criminal.
We are at war with Iraq and under the guidance?? of criminals in the process.

Anonymous:

Although I personally, for the past 8 years, anyway, have recognized that the labels applied to aspects of America's actions have been misleading, I am willing to share the blame. As a representative democracy, we the people are responsible for what our country does. I disagree that this sham "war" should go unremarked into history.

George Bush and Richard Cheney and hundreds of their supporters have cast our supposed engagement with supposedly the forces behind the cowardly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Our "leaders", with a still undisclosed other agenda led us to Afghanistan and Iraq. We knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the U. N. team of respected investigators had already verified that. When that "reason" fell through, it was about spreading democracy in the mid-east. When "democracy" didn't bloom, then it was . . .. The "war" for which Bush's administration prides itself has cost lives, weaponry, prestige, and the stability of our economy.

It is getting late in a failed administration. While many may feel that impeachment would be an idle exercise of retribution, I think rather that as a decent society we have a duty to follow our laws and traditions. We have had (why these SOBs got a second term is quite beyond me) 8 years of deception and misdirection. We have attacked straw enemies. We have been made to look the fools before the world. We have wasted resources and human lives without explanation. The known perpetrators ought be called to account.

I thank Mr. Zakaria for his assessment. In time, all reasonable people will accept the truth of his essay's point of view. And history will mostly record it so. But history, too, should hopefully record that in the aftermath, America chose to do the right thing. That chapter has yet to play out.

Ted Frier:

We should have learned long ago that the Bush administration and the conservative movement that supports it prizes the opportunity for political exploitation that issues present far more than they worry about the issues themselves. Republicans were far more interested in using the runup to the Iraq invasion to win election in 2002 than actually winning the war itself, otherwise they would not have deliberately weakened America by dividing it politically.

Scott McClellen in his book makes the excellent point that George Bush undermined his own war effort by politicizing it, thus limiting his ability to adjust to changing realities on the ground for fear of apprearing weak by admitting mistakes as a prelude to changing course, and so playing into the hands of the political enemies he created when he used the Iraq war to score political points against them by impugning their patriotism.

So, the only reason that America is at "war" today is so that Bush can claim the "inherent war powers" his legal apologists (John Yoo et al) say he has as Commander in Chief in order to affect the centralizing of power in the Executive Branch that conservatives wanted all along. That is a theme that runs throughout this administration -- manipulating events to achieve some other longed for agenda -- whether it is 9/11 to invade Iraq, the bungling of Katrina to impugn "big government," or skyrocketing gas prices to eviserate environmental barriers to full-out drilling. The idea that we are at "war" may be distorting the conflict we are in and damaging America's national security interests, but to a conservative movement that has always hungered for power above all else, the national interest has never been a paramount concern.

Richard,

Your comments are incorrect. Iraq was not a country filled with Islamic extremists. It was a secular country.

cockteau:

The Bush era is coming to an end, the greatest question this nation faces now is where do we go from here.

The next President should declare the 'war on terror' won and return America to the status quo before 9/11.

That is the ONLY way this country can ever regain its position in the world.

Fareed Zakaria is absolutely right to point out that we are not at war. There is a much simpler way to prove this point than to compare the conflicts in which we are engaged with other wars this nation has fought. Simply put, we have not DECLARED war; therefore, we are NOT at war.

It is hard to say what this actually is. It seems to be an an unprovoked invasion at the order of an American president of two sovereign nations, neither of which attacked the United States nor threatened American interests in any serious way.

Afghanistan may have been the location of some of al-Qa'eda's chief operatives, but neither Afghanistan nor its ruling Taliban had anything to do with any attacks on America, on 9/11 or at any other time. Indeed, prior to our invasion, Bush had demanded that Afghanistan hand over Osama bin Laden, and because we had no formal relations with Kabul nor any extradition arrangements, this was not possible under international law. The Taliban offered to hand him over to a third party with whom they did have extradition arrangements, but Bush was intent on war and so we had a war with a nation where heretofore most of the population viewed America as its friend.

I love toying with neocons when the discussion turns to Iraq. I always ask them to please inform me of what it may have been that Iraq or Saddam Hussein ever did to the United States that might have warranted invasion. Indeed, given the political and religious states that cover the Middle East end-to-end, I would think that we had the best chance of some kind of diplomatic alliance with the secular, socialist regime in Iraq, which seemed in many ways preferable to the Islamic Republics, dictatorial monarchies and military regimes that rule nearly every other country in the region.

I believe that the true purpose of this so-called "war," a purpose that has been successfully achieved, is to reduce the supply of oil to the world's consumers, thereby driving the price to the levels we now endure. I am terrified at all this feverish talk of a similar war against the MUCH stronger Iran, because such a conflict will surely shut down the entire Persian Gulf, and raise gasoline prices quickly to $20/gallon or more, accompanied by draconian rationing.

We should NEVER allow oil men to run our government. It's not good for us or the world.

On the plantation:

This has not been a War. Perhaps a better present outcome would have resulted if it had been, but it was not so.

To claim this is a War (when it is not) discredits the utility of the idea of War, thereby actually adding to our vulnerability for that future event when we must invoke a full-fledged and declared War to protect our liberties and values.

It scars the public psyche whenever lies and contradictions are put down as a foundation for national policy. A wise leader would see this. Along with courageous lives expended and public treasure misdirected, a great deal of social trust has been lost within seven short years. However, this malady was not brought on us by any one executive alone; it involved the complicity of mass media which did not honestly serve the public's interests.

Richard:

Is the United States "at war"? This is plainly just a semantic question as posed and answered here, yet one that Zakaria suggests has operative implications, namely, whether we need a "wartime" president. But whatever one prefers to call it, we all agree we engaged in two geographic conflicts, as well as a broader conflict, of late going quite well, against radical militant islamists. Of course, we need a president who will be competent at numerous things, but among them is the capability and foresight to manage these conflicts, and achieve acceptable outcomes.

The notion that the "threat" has been exaggerated as part of a fear campaign, however, is incorrect, in my view. First, the threat has been reduced because it was confronted vigorously. To regard the threat as overstated is to turn success into failure. Second, the real concern isn't the Al Qaeda will reach its geopolitical objective of establishing an expansive Caliphate. The real concern all along has been that non-state actors capable of organizing and willing to use suicide cells to murder thousands of civilians, would be willing to kill millions if they could figure out how.

And the potential means for AQ are no mystery. Nuclear weapons were invented and demonstrated sixty-three years ago, in an era preceding television. What other technology over this period has failed to decline in cost, improve in sophistication, and expand in mass availability, almost beyond recognition? We have discovered loose nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union, nuclear bazaars run out of Pakistan, and hardened minitiarized warhead designs floating around hard disks across the globe. Is responding to this threat "scare tactics" -- or prudence?

Confronting AQ and defeating it on several fronts -- financial, hot battlefields, cultural -- as a strategic approach to containing this threat makes much sense, more than seeking solely to rely on police work, often after the crime, and the illusion of adequately hardening a limitless list of potential targets. We need a president with appropriate experience, and a clear and consistent vision of how to manage this challenge.

Michael:

Excellent article--I have never believed the hype about the Emperor's New War either. I love how these conservatives say that comparisons to Vietnam are inapposite, while they constantly compare this "war" to World War II, an even less appropriate comparison. The bottom line is that when war is this good for the government, the government will always claim we're at war.

Fareed is right, this is not a war, it is an invasion to secure the Iraqi oil for oil companies connected to the bush administration. He has turned our military into the oil companies private army. Free of charge of course. This administration are the biggest thieves in history.

BacktoBasics Rob:

Whether the President and Congress have mobilized the nation or its people for sacrifice tells us more about whether the nation is "at war" than whether the President has correctly done so--the real meaning of Mr. Zakaria'a "test." Saying the nation was not at war in Korea and Vietnam when we drafted hundreds of thousands of young men and sent them off to fight and die, is silly. Saying the nation is not at war now, when far more than a million people, counting the armed forces, the national guard, the contractors who replaced the military in support roles, and their families, have been ssunstantially affected by the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, also makes no sense. That the President has failed so miserably at generating public support for the fighting, and at supporting the troops and their families, is not the test of whether the nation is "at war." Have a substantial number of Americans had their lives significantly affected by the conflict is a better test whether the nation is at war.

Ager:

Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, not its bombastic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, controls that nation's military and insists Iran will not produce nuclear weapons. Israel claims it faces a second holocaust. Iran says Israel's nuclear forces threaten its existence.

The dogs of war are being unleashed.


wakeupplz:

If military duty was mandatory to everybody rich and poor alike, there would be no "war".

Marilyn Delson:

Thank you for finally stating the obvious: "We are NOT AT WAR!"

A war president can claim "executive privilege" to bury gnarly "state secrets" and torture, lose habeas corpus, stifle congressional investigations, set up a police state, scare the daylights out of Americans. Cheney knows it's so much easier to operate without the normal parameters of accountability.

This "war" of choice against an "enemy" that the Bushies, to this day, claim caused 9/11, has robbed us of world respect, our once-prosperous economy, our national heritage of cherished freedoms and liberties, and allowed the real 9/11 perpetrators in Afghanistan and Pakistan to reconstitute and grow. I'm not including the deaths of Americans and Iraqis and the destruction of a sovereign country. Seems that all along it was about the oil.

dijetlo:

War is a state that exists between two nations.
Which means there is no war on drugs, no war on crime and no war on terrorism . War in these three examples is used metaphorically.
For those who claim all the casualties from 9/11 make it a war fail to consider if a bank robber takes twenty hostages and kills each of them, are we at war with the bank robber?
We were at war with Iraq for a short time, at war with Afghanistan for an even shorter period of time, but now both of those wars have progressed to occupations. The difference being you can't be at war with a state you control.
Sloppy language is a hallmark of the US political system, it's what allows us to keep pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into a defense industry that produces nothing of value.

Cheez:

"Terrorism is a 'weapon'". Terrorism is more of an ideology and you can't fight an ideology. I do agree that terrorism has been around for more than 2000 years and it will be around for probably another 2000 regardless of the "war on terror". To say we are fighting terrorists...what DOES a terrorist look like? This is a question that journalists should ask the bonehead in the oval office. He'll dodge the question 100 times out of a 100 because it can't be answered but yet he continually says that we are out there hunting down terrorists. Those *&^%'s that were on those airplanes didn't look any more like terrorists than my Iranian officemate does.

By any definition, we have terrorists on our own streets (why do you lock your doors at night?) and we can't control that...how is it possible to invade some other country and try to do the same thing? It is a fruitless and wasteful use of money and lives because they'll all die trying stop it.

John:

Anybody else getting the sense that us humans are a dead-end species? That the tribal thinking wired into our brains by millenia of "Darwinism" won't allow the vast majority of us to approach our time here in any healthy or self-sustaining way?

The posts in the Post illustrate: Some are rational, measured, intellectually inclusive. But the rest reek of the hubris of those True Believers who are morally certain they have mastered the root causes of their disaffection by identifying an "enemy" to hate and try to destroy.

The individual human body possesses a complex physiology that works completely out of conscious view to maintain homeostasis. That's the set of regulated feedback-driven mechanisms that lets us argue about "war presidents" and who "our enemy" really is, without having to think about acid-base balance and perfusion and digestion and antineoplastic activities of our immune systems. And we can mouth-breathe our True Beliefs without needing to work our diaphragms and intercostals.

Too bad there's nothing going on in the cerebral cortex that performs the same functions for our sense of community and cooperation and common good. "Protecting our way of life" looks painfully like a slow kind of suicide.

So pick your enemy, choose your weapons, and let's come out shooting! We're collectively idiots and, God help us, that seems to be the best we can do.

Rigged:

You're absolutely right, Fareed: Excellent comments! It's a mystery exactly what war we're "at": we "won" in Iraq...Saddam is gone, and his WMD are gone as well (or would be if he had had any) -- those were the rationales for invading Iraq in the first place. Claiming we're "at war" with a noun (terrorism) is ludicrous. Terrorism is a "weapon," not an organized...well, anything. There have been those using "terrorism" as a weapon for at least 2,000 years, and there will almost certainly be what some could, or will, describe as "terrorists" for another 2,000 years, at least...if humans last that long.

For McCain to claim that Islamic extremism could jeopardize "our very existence" is utter nonsense. How could a few thousand people do that? Which millions of Americans are going to vote into office an Islamic extremist? Only our politicians, in pandering to people's fears in order to try to get reelected, are a threat to our existence as "Americans" who value the principles on which our country was founded. The violations of our Constitution by the Bush administration, aided and abetted by Congress, are appalling...and should be prosecuted. If our Founding Fathers had solely wanted to "keep us safe," we wouldn't be a country...but they valued freedom of expression, religion, etc over (by far) a secretive, authoritarian government that Bush/Cheney have been working to create as hard as they can.

I don't know exactly what it means to "be on the offensive" against "radical Islam," but if that means locking up people for many years on little or no evidence (the vast majority of those held in Guantanamo have been released because they were innocent) in violation of centuries-old rights recognized around the world, including in our own Constitution; engaging in torture tactics that we strongly condemned before we borrowed them from the communist Chinese to use ourselves; engaging in illegal wiretapping of phones and e-mail; etc etc etc, then I'm totally opposed. If there is another terrorist attack, so be it. Better that than giving up principles this country has strongly valued for 232 years...now that would really be a "threat" to us as Americans.

Judith :

A very well written article.

As for the comment that Obama is the anti-Christ, there are others on the extreme left who say the same for our current President. Perhaps the anti-Christ is not one single person, but instead a metaphor for all those who act in ways that are not in keeping with Christ's words. You know, the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, his actions in the Temple...all in essence saying Just Be Nice, Don't Be Greedy, Care for Those Less Fortunate, and Don't Kill Others.

I am not so sure we should be blaming the Pentagon, they are soldiers, who are required to do what the commander in chief mandates. Instead of blaming, or attaching Biblical catastrophe on others, maybe we should spend time trying to follow Eisenhower's example and expend our national effort on addressing our crumbling infrastructure and investing in innovative industries that will improve our economy.

Steve:

If you desire peace with your neighbor, throwing rocks at him is counterproductive. He is likely to throw rocks at you, and to teach his children to throw rocks also. If you want peace, you have to make peace. If you choose to make war, you will not have peace.

In the middle east, various parties have been making war for a very long time. Children grow up seeing injustice and violence. They are taught to blame the Jews and the Christians, and then to hate the Jews and Christians. Some of them act on those beliefs.

The only way to stop it is to take away their hate. Sending the army to shoot the place up and kill a hundred thousand people, yet again, can only increase the hate. The first step to make peace with your neighbor is to stop throwing rocks at him.

The oil is a big part of the problem. As long as we need oil, the people who have the oil will have power. If we develop other energy sources, and ways to use that other energy for transportation, we can take away that power.

There will be criminal acts. We need to treat them as criminal acts. Investigate and arrest the perpetrators. And investigate and arrest the organizers and leaders who recruit and train them. Give them all fair trials. And, importantly, be seen to be fair.

Alex :

Over 4,200 of our Troops Killed in Iraq. Over Almost 30,000 wounded. And you are saying we are not at war? Ask our Allies in the world if we are at war! Ask the UK! Over a million Iraq Civilian Deaths and you say we are not at war? Over 2 million Iraqi civilians displaced and left Iraq and you say we are not at war? The majority of Americans disagree with you Sir! See you in November when we all cast our votes! Barack Obama 08!

Tess:

We may not be "at war", but we have all been living in a state of terror - thanks to the fear mongering of this government. Frankly, Bin Laden could probably learn more about psychological warfare from Cheney, Rove, et al. Look how effectively this terrorist administration has kept us all in line. Anyone who looks different, anyone who sounds different, is a suspected terrorist. We now determine patriotism and loyalty based on lapel pins. Folks talk about the great sacrifice our soldiers are making (and they are indeed) BUT if we truly honor and respect these sacrifices, then why does this Administration HIDE the ceremonies for the dead? Why do we allow the returning soldiers to pay for their own medical care because the VA system is broken? Bush may be a war president - but the soldiers are not toys - he just thinks they are.

Iain :

America needs to understand at the highest level that climate change threatens the 'very existence' of the whole world. Islamic extremism is a bug bite on the arse (UK version of ass) by comparison.

As far a George Bush or his successor being a War President, get real! They are nothing more than imperialist (yes just like the British in the past) rulers carrying out their arrogant 'little' wars of control.

As long as this continues, get used to the drip feed of casualties and the resulting terrorism, just like the British did in the past. But why not trying something different by showing some real leadership as the world's only superpower.

Steve:

If you desire peace with your neighbor, throwing rocks at him is counterproductive. If you want peace, you have to make peace. If you choose to make war, you will not have peace.

In the middle east, various parties have been making war for a very long time. Children grow up seeing injustice and violence. They are taught to blame the Jews and the Christians, and then to hate the Jews and Christians. Some of them act on those beliefs. Those actions are criminal, by almost any definition.

The only way to stop it is to take away their hate. Sending the army to shoot the place up and kill a hundred thousand people, yet again, can only increase the hate. The first step to make peace with your neighbor is to stop throwing rocks at him.

The oil is a part of the problem. As long as we need oil, the people who have the oil have power. If we will develop other energy sources, and means to use it for transportation, we can take away that power.

There will be criminal acts. We need to treat them as criminal acts. Investigate and arrest the perpetrators. Give them fair trials. And, importantly, be seen to be fair.

Jamie:

The author of this article describes us as being in a "Cold War" as we were with the Russians...
What cold war killed 3000 US civilians in an hour?

This is not a Cold War, it's a very hot one and you do not negotiate with terrorists. Russia was not a terrorist nation. They might have had a different ideology than we had, but they were not a terrorist nation.

lowell:

No declaration of war has been made; no war bonds have been issued. The draft has not been reinstated. This was an inept attempt to grab assets in Iraq. If there is a hell let's hope king georgie spends eternity there in agony

Old Nick:

Methinks Zakaria is a bit mixed-up. Maybe he'll
do better next time, after he has read some of the thoughtful critiques of his piece.

Mohamed MALLECK,Swift Current, Canada:

MICHAEL WILSON,

You write: " Let them retire comfortably with their oil-based wealth".

I agree.

For a long time, my most fervent wish had been to see them dragged in front of the ICC to answer charges of war crimes.

But that would be doing the sub-humans too much honour.

We should treat them they way we in Africa treat our most contemptible dictators : "Let them retire comfortably with their oil-based wealth". Lest somebody does as one of the neocon-sympathising bloggers here has done by trying to associate these unworthy characters with honourable past Presidents like Jimmy Carter, whom he accuses of having flown marines deep inside Iran and withdrawn them without firing a shot!

For years I (and everyone else) has been hearing that 'we have the best trained, best equipped, best etc, etc military in the world' and I have no doubt that this is true. Also for years I have been hearing from the House Minority Leader Mr. Boehner that if we leave Iraq the 'terrorist will follow us home'. No one has asked, so far as I know, Mr Boehner how these terrorists would GET here. The 'enemy' has no navy, no air force and most of all no real army! Since we have the 'best' of everything, why have we been there for FIVE YEARS. Why have we not whipped this enemy and finished this thing once and for all?
Personally I think the reason is shared with the occupants of a 5-sided building in Washington coupled with the occupant of a white house on Pennsylvania avenue. The reason is a lack of LEADERSHIP.

arvay:

You write: "We are in a struggle against Islamic extremism."

Untrue. We are in a struggle against the people of the Mideast who object to our unwarranted and counterproductive support of Israel, our illegal invasion of Iraq and all our other interventions over the years, including the imposition of the Shah in Iran.

What you call "Islamic extremism" is a set of movements , basically nationalist in nature, that employ religious ideas. They include the Palestinian resistance, not all of which is "Islamic" in nature, Iraqi resistance groups, some of them Baath socialists and other groups.

This "Islamo-fascist" idea is a crock, dreamed up by the same kinds of people who saw a vast communist conspiracy behind nationalist movements in Vietnam and Cuba.

Cuba's national rallying cry is "fatherland or death" not "communism or death'" for example. We've gotten a lot of people killed over these delusions.

Time to see things as they are and stop the lethal idiocy.

IdiotLiberal:

I am a moron. I hate George Bush. That is all.

Roy:

Hiatt's headline for this piece is "We are not at war"

Tell that to the families of over 4,000 troops who have died.

ngombe:

Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Wolfowitz have all been involved in great theft. This so called war has been about nothing else except Oil and plundering the US treasury.
They make the African kleptocrats (Moi, Mobuto, Kibaki etc.) look positively benign.
What a great way to make money. The price that the US people will pay (and are already paying)for standing by and watching, will be a great one. Loss of standing and moral authority in the world. Crumbling economy. When India and China are calling the shots people will remember this period as being the turning point when America's decline began.

A Rahman:

I may sound queer, but up to now I have not understood what the war in Iraq was, is and probably will be about? Could anyone give me the exact answer in one or two sentences only, please?

Lawrence H. Oswald:

Our little minds need our little symbols (words like "war", "recession", "African-American", "terrorist", "patriot", "at war", "liberal", "national security") for whatever it is that we call "thinking" to proceed. Humanity is pathetic. We fail to solve the problems that nature and chance dump on us, we create other bigger problems through our adrenalin based conflicts, we imagine ourselves as noble and then act basely, we use short term greed to bulldoze long term charity and then we joust over these little symbols echoing around in our little minds, calling it reason. The popular new word game is Squabble.

Zeinab Ghaemi:

Dear Sir

I am Zeinab Ghaemi, a journalist that working for the Hamshahri newspaper with millions plus subscribers in Iran wich has the most newspaper circulation among official journals : I am looking for invaluable articles which brilliantly explain and expose today's world politics hot issues. I am writing this letter to ask for your valuable contribution and set an interview date if you kindly accept.

Best regards

dick ginnold:

Mr. Zakaria is completely correct. We dont need a war president and Pres. Bush is a poseur and a liar in this as well as most of his other policies. He was partly responsible for 9-11 through the incompetence of the FBI and CIA and then misused the terrible tragedy to beat the drums and put on his flight suit, instead of making it a wakeup call to better understand the Muslim world, cut our overdependence on Middle East oil and improve our relations on these issues with Europe and Asia, and, yes, Latin America. Instead we hid in the bunker of our jingoistic move on Iraq, let Osama get away and started the wrongheaded War on Terror.

Bush did help himself and the Republican Party hugely through his backdoor deals with a variety of corporate interests and giveaways to the have-mores, as he aptly called them. However, the American people deserve a lot of blame for electing him in the first place(this includes Nader fans the first time(.

Will we wake up and start down a sounder path in this election. I hope so. My kids and grandkids are counting on it.

Rick:

Has everyone forgotten that Bin Laden declared war on the US in 1995? We are at war, not of our own choosing. No matter how small they are, if Al Qaeda gets a nuke, then there will be no question of whether or not we are at war!

Michael Wilson:

President Bush has put our nation at war with ourselves as well as the so-called radical islamists. Most fringe groups marginalize themselves by offending the vast mass of humanity and therefore their influence is limited. This administration's response to the 9/11 attack was to redirect our national anger toward a non-participant in the attack and, in the process, violate the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and long-standing avoidance of a preemptive military first-strike against a sovereign nation. We are already calling ourselves war criminals for the incarceration, torture and murder of perhaps 100+ detainees. Much as I dislike President Bush and what he stands for, I want the next administration to devote its energies to addressing the problems which Bush has ignored instead of bogging itself down in trying to unravel the web of lies and lawlessness which are the legacy of Bush-Cheney. Let them retire comfortably with their oil-based wealth. That is their "Mission Accomplished" while ours is to restore the values that are truly American and to take our place again as leaders of human right and Democracy.

Dave:

Spot on Mr. Zakaria.

Militaries go to conflict. Nations go to war.

Our military is definitely in conflict.

This nation is not at war (America is at the mall).

The most important component of war is *NOT* the military component. It is the legal component.

During Oct. 2002, POTUS did not request a legal instrument of war, Congress never debated or voted on a legal instrument of war, POTUS never signed a legal instrument of war.

POTUS asked for and received *AUTHORIZED USE OF THE MILITARY* from Congress.

There is an enormous difference between *WAR* and *AUTHORIZED USE OF THE MILITARY.*

Those who do not understand the difference, do not understand the true nature of war.

We are not at war (We just think we are).

USMC (ret.)

dw69129:

False. There was never anything remotely similar to war in Iraq. Let no one ever forget Bush as the court appointed corporate profit occupation president.

Mike:

I continue to be disappointed not in Bush, but in our military leaders. I don't know how much more technology we can shovel their way and still they cannot win.I want to be very clear on this point so as not to tick off soldier supporters. I lay the blame for the current situation at the feet of the Pentagon.If I was given the opportunity to clean house there would be a complete overhaul of the command structure.I would fire so many people it would make their heads swim. I was excited when Gates dumped two from the Air Force though wish it was more like a thousand.Every single branch needs a house cleaning.

dfs:

Since 9/11 there has been no successful attack on American soil. It would be foolish either to claim that there is a necessary cause-and-effect relation between Bush's choices and this fact, or that such a relation is out of the question. The actual truth is that we will have no clear idea of that until when and if the Islamicists start talking for the historical record. But (at least if you aren't a Democrat) the possibility remains open that some of Bush's policies have been responsible for our domestic security. If so, which ones? Well, since this can't be determined, it would seem foolish and dangerous to write them all off as mistakes and walk away from them.

Gus:

The neo-nuts will continue to say that Bush
did the right thing. They'll defend Bush till
the end. But the rest of us understand that
Bush is responsible for sending 4000+ men and women
to die, for absolutely NOTHING.

markomd:

Of course we need a wartime president and wartime vice president. Don’t we? Here’s how to find out:

Just give GW Bush and RB Cheney rifles, place them on the front lines, and let them learn what they have compelled our fighting men and women to learn.

Since neither of them has had previous wartime military experience, they would surely learn whether or not we need a 'wartime president and vice-president', and then they could tell us.

John:

Mr. Zakaria is very astute to note that one of the Republicans' "true War President", President Eisenhower, did more for our nation in his avoidance of "fear-mongering" than any President save President Franklin Rosevelt.

President Eisenhower even coined the phrase and foretold the destruction to our nation that "The Military-Industrial Complex" can wreak. It is best exampled by the corruptive co-opting of this Iraqi invasion of Halliburton/KBR.

If Senator Obama wins this November, I hope that he will consider Mr. Zakaria for a post of Middle East Advisor. John

Roxwell:

Fareed Zakaria is forgetting that every time the Muslim terrorists attacked our embassies, USS cole the world trade center and langley(CIA).

President Clinton did not retaliate. That encouraged them to do a 9/11.

If they are on the ropes and in decline, it is because they have realized not all Presidents of USA are going to let them do whatever they want.

The terrorists have done so much harm to India all these years and the world did not do a thing, till 9/11 opened their eyes.

If the world had spoken up and helped India fight the menace, may be they would not have been encouraged and emboldened to do a 9/11.

Bush must be saluted for fighting the Islamist terrorists.

But he has made one blunder, by supporting the country that trains and exports terrorism.

David Q.:

The USA needs help in getting over its paranoia, rather than a "war president". The frame of mind that Bush and those supporting him use of "you are with us or you are against us", is the perfect example of this narrow-minded thinking. Needless to say, the USA needs an "intelligent" president and not one that cannot use the english language and still wants to play cops and robbers. Why does America always think that "it" has the only good government and has the "only" way of doing things right? I, as an ex-patriot, who did his military service during the Vietnam war, and left the USA to live in Europe in 1973, am happy to say that I found governments here that "care" for their citizens and that those same citizens are "free" to say and do as they please without fear of "torture" now being used by the US government against those that don't agree with them. The development and direction over the last 7 years in the USA, with its "aggression" and "distruction" of Iraq, (a former sovereign country) is the most saddening time of my 60 years on this planet. I am no longer proud to carry a US passport or to call myself an american. Yes, Eisenhower was a peace president because he actually was active in a "real war". Bush or Cheney are nothing but sofa cowboys who have the butts covered in their bunkers if things get rough. The USA does not have ALL the answers, and it is time they realized that it would be beneficial to take all their tax money and try to "rebuild" america for their own citizens, rather than making america go broke spending billions fighting windmills. The entire infrastructure of the USA is gone. They could learn a thing or two by spending some time in Europe where the money is better spent. Intelligence and the willingness to speak to someone of a different thought is the way to peace and not through the barrel of a gun. But America was raised on guns and knows nothing else, as the Supreme Court has just once again proven to be true. Will America ever learn??

Sherry:

Obama may be what is described as the anti-Christ in Revelations, he attends a church where the pastor preaches anti-American, anti-white, and anti-Jews, and has a wife that has never been proud of America. If this isn't enough to scare you, may God help us all.

Robert17:

There is no way to know whether our reaction to the communist threat was an overreaction or not. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons aimed at our country, the seizure of Eastern Europe and the implementation of Stalinist rule there, the subversion of numerous governments around the world and the overt attempts to supplant existing governments with communists were all real enough. We certainly overreacted at times or made missteps during the Cold War, but it was without a doubt an existential crisis and the world I believe is a better place in general for our having reacted on the scale that we did.

The "War on Terror" is another matter entirely. It is important firstly to divorce Iraq from the equation at least in terms of strategy. That war had other causes that predated America's obsession with Radical Islam. Neither the fact that Radical Islam has made Iraq into a battle front (something that in my opinion has hurt them worse than it has hurt us), nor the fact that the Administration has did the same thing rhetorically in order to shore up support for this war make Iraq anything more than a means to an end, just as Korea and Vietnam were not critical objectives during the Cold War. All of these countries are simply unfortunate grounds for the meeting engagements of forces that are not powerful or willing to meet the enemy on its own ground.

Like the Cold War, these meeting engagements are part of what is in reality a political struggle where it is hard to quantify victory or defeat using total war battlefield metrics. But war does have a habit of bringing out the worst in its participants and exposing it to the world, and I think that people would generally rather live in a world where the worst of the United States exists rather than the worst of Radical Islam. Both forces of course are diminished, and perhaps it is time that the U.S. reevaluates how much it is willing to spend (in blood, treasure and world political power and goodwill) in order to pursue the diminishing prospect of a reestablished Califate.

Nym:


This war president idea is sort of silly, we need someone who is a good strategic thinker no matter what. No one "wins" a war, they all cost too much money, waste time, energy, and in the case of terrorist efforts fail badly in the end.

It's more of a win to avoid wars entirely.

Chris:

I think the real question is "Do we ever NEED a war president?" My answer to that question is quick and easy, NO. The lack of diplomacy of the current administration's makes GWs self imposed moniker, in part, self fulfilling. A super power should use its power wisely or you may have the world turn against you and no one can win a fight with many fronts. GW turned 911 into his personal crusade instead of rallying the world behind a global purge of terrorism. With the world working as a team against terrorism then the terrorists would have been fighting many fronts.

Oscar BullFrog:

Oh, good grief, "charlie browns," (et al.), answer: True!

your myopic views of "war" panorama is frighteningly breath-taking in its myopia. America and its "last, best hope" has been "at war" since 1789-ish and will continue to defend humanity unless you continue your false grip on reality (darwinism? ... malthus-ism?) and create the defeat within.

shame on your ignorance, shame, shame, shame!

Janos Hunyadi:

Fareed,
I enjoy your writing in general. But this essay is weak.

Both George W. Bush's decisions as President and John McCain's response are heartening to me.
If someone lobs a firebomb in my front-yard, I will chase down the perp. not put up a picket fence and wait for him to drive by again, especially if the police is cut from the same cloth as the UN.

If radical Islam has lost to mainstream Islam, then how come the Ahmedias were recently banned in Indonesia? how come Turkey's supreme court banned Erdogan's party? how come women still can't drive in Saudi? how come there are daily terror strikes in Pakistan and near-anarchy in the Afghan countryside? how come the Baha'is are still proscribed in Iran? And when is the first Christian church going to be inaugurated in all of the Arabian peninsula?

There is no equivalence between the competing world-views offered by America and the Al-Qaeda types.
Here's an observation: the emigration rates from all and any of the 'mainstream' Islamic states is accelerating. Surely, this is not because the mainstream Islamic ideology is winning?

America is at war and a very serious ideological one at that. The current administration's and the next one has to deal with a truly insidious opponent. The opponent exploits your own values of liberalism to undermine you.

It seeks to destroy the very essence of Western civilization and the gains of Enlightenment. Unfortunately, a gain of Enlightenment is liberalism which forces some of us to wear rose-colored glasses at times.

Iraq was and is a distraction from the more serious confrontation that is happening. Europe is weary because it has lived this since 1389 and still deals with it.

Sadly, I cannot share your optimism that radical Islam is defeated. It never was, it probably never will - it can only be contained. And the best way to do that is to be on the offensive.
Through history, pan-Islamic empires have always harbored an extremist fringe constantly at tension with the mainstream - from the Qarmatians to the Hashishins, to the Jannissaries - some controlled, some not.

For that reason alone, I will vote for the President that does not let down the guard in this struggle.

J.D.Solano:

This article is complete B.S.

Mr. Zakaria defines "war" as "conflict that threatens the country's basic security —not merely its interests or its allies abroad". Where this definition comes from is a mistery, but it is blatantly incorrect.

First, "state of war" is defined as: a) a state of actual armed hostilities regardless of a formal declaration of war; b) a legal state created and ended by official declaration regardless of actual armed hostilities and usually characterized by operation of the rules of war (Merrian-Webster's Dictionary, Date of Entry: 1656).

Is the United States involved in "actual armed hostilities"? Obviously, YES. There are some 130,000 troops deployed in Iraq, and some 32,000 deployed in Afghanistan, many of them engaged in combat. So, the United States is AT WAR.

Second, "conflict that threatens the country's basic security" is a lousy definition of war. The U.S. went to war in Korea and Vietnam, even though existing conflicts in those regions posed no threats to the U.S. security. The rationale for those wars was containing communism far away from U.S. soil (very much like what Bush said about Iraq). On the other hand, the Cuban missiles posed a real threat to basic U.S. security, and nobody calls that crisis "a war".

Last, but not least, Mr Zakaria defies elemental logic. If the U.S. is not at war, then why are many Americans opposed to the war?

dj333:

VEN PARAMESWARAN wrote:

General and President Eisenhower was a peacemonger. Though he won World War II, he hated wars. He ended the Korean War. He had a mind of his own and made major decisions, though he was called a golfing president.
_____________________________________________

To me that is the best contrast: General Eisenhower ended War to play Golf - "Dubya" Bush ended Golf to play War. We were better off under the General - he had a much better idea of what military force could do, what it couldn't, and what the price would be for both.

mike kittle:

THE SLOGAN OF WAR: Bush first uttered the words "We are at war" after speaking to Cheney and Rumsfeld just following 9/11. He then quickly adopted the "at war" slogan as a future justification for torturing detainees, attacking Iraq and Afghanistan, denying habeas corpus rights, and increasing his executive powers.

It was all a scam on the American people to segue into Cheney's agenda of maximizing the President's overall power and diminishing Congress' ability to counter the President's wishes.

If you like the outcome, go with God...if you don't, go to the devil!


Matt:

Mr. Zakaria, we have had nearly 7 years without a terrorist attack on our soil. No one would have predicted that back in late 2001. By you criticizing of Bush for "exagerating" the threat and by minimizing his accomplishments (no doubt because Bush's unilateralism is unseamly to an internationalist), you are directing your effort in the wrong place. I'm sorry but your logic is backwards.

It is BECAUSE Bush emphasized the need to act aggressively against Al Qaeda and terrorism (remember democratizing the Middle East and his 2nd Inaguaration, for example?) that we have not had another attack. It is BECAUSE of Bush's actions that Al Qaeda is "on the ropes" and "in decline." To believe otherwise requires one to either ignore how Al Qaeda rose in the 1990's (when we did little to fight global terrorism), or to dismiss the US's ability to change the course of history (i.e. Al Qaeda grew and shrank on their own).

I am not in fear of another attack as we all were after 9/11, but I recognize that a prudent US policy is to continue to focus the war on terror (no matter what your tactics are) and to stay on the offensive. And much as Bush is blamed for playing the "fear card", I would argue that politicians that want to de-emphasize the threat are simply trying to parlay the growing security we naturally feel since we haven't been attacked (as well as a hatred for all things Bush) into votes. Now which policy would do more to harm our national security? Bush's or the panderer's?

dunnage:

Hey, I keep saying we should do what we know how to do: Send in the suits. But no, so the Chinese are doing business with Africa, Chavez while we point fingers and drop bombs.

David Bower:

of course we are not at war .. we won it. everything you said sounds like what the definition of victory is.

should we have done nothing, so the USA could really be in a global war?

Mariano Patalinjug:

Yonkers, New York
07 July 2008

George W. Bush is a different kind of hombre. He is a Texan where things are usually bigger than normal. He is a proud Texan, and is also arrogant and oftentimes reckless.

And he is careless with words. He calls the people of Greece "Grecians." He pronounces nuc-le-ar "nuc-u-lar." When he loses his temper, he challenges adversaries to "bring them on." Not long after he invaded and occupied Iraq preemptively and unilaerally on the basis of bad intelligence, dressed in a pilot's G-suit on the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier, he strutted with a very large banner as his background proclaiming to the whole world, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED."

Given this perspective, it is not altogether surprisling, let alone perplexing, that George W. Bush prefers to call himself a "war president" even though there is no war--but only "conflicts" here and there.

Mariano Patalinjug
MarPatalinjug@aol.com

The US is not at war at present. The present US president Bush wants to call himself as a "war president" hoping that he will be remembered in the same way as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the greatest US War President. In Doing so, President Bush has fooled the US people with incorrect information. He has also used fear on the US public to implement his incorredt ideas. These actions of President Bush has caused the death of many young US citizens and immigrants.

Mr. Zakaria is definitely correct. I totally agree
Lee

What we need is a President that doesn't glory in being a "war-time President." Did you see President Bush basking in glory giving his first speech after 9-11? It was disgusting; war is a failure in policy, and 9-11 was a FAILURE not an opportunity.

Anonymous:

The present US President Bush wants to call himself as a "war president" hoping that he will be remembered in the same way as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the greatest US "War President." In doing so, P:resident Bush has distorted facts and fooled the US people. He is also using fear to promote his wrong ideas and policies. These actions of President Bush have caused the death of many Americans and undeermined the credibilty of the US among US people and those of other nations around the world. The US is not is a war that is in the same sense as the Second World War was.

Federico B. Santa Cruz
506 Saybrooke View Drive
Gaithersburg, MD

James from Philadelphia:

If I stop and think about it, I'm way more scared of getting pulled over by the police...than a suicide bomber.

ven parameswaran:

I came to the USA in 1954 during Eisenhower administration. I agree with Fareed Zakaria: General and President Eisenhower was a peacemonger. Though he won World War II, he hated wars. He ended the Korean War. He had a mind of his own and made major decisions, though he was called a golfing president. He was courageous to challenge the CIA and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles. Eisenhower was in facour of normalizing relations with China but John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles(CIA) created obstacles. When Nixon became president he could not wait to open relations with China. Eisenhower really modernized america by building national interstate turnpikes. He was courageous to oppose the invasion of Egypt by Israel, U.K., and France in 1956 because Egypt nationalized Suez Canal. Israel is our staunch ally. Only Eisenhower has admonished our close allies U.K., France, and Israel. Fareed's article has provided food for thoughts. Eisenhower was President of Columbia U and during his administration american education industry expanded.

BillC:

Define combat. Jimmy Carter also presided over combat that engaged American troops, unless you don't count flying troops deep into Iran on the theory that we left without firing shots.

Zel:

Fareed, it is simply impossible to understand why so many people have still not realized the truth in what you say. I believe the reason all of your (and others) information falls on deaf ears is because of the "sacrifice" issue. If there was a draft, people would care. It's not a pretty thing to say about us. But how else to explain why a personal act gets a president impeached, but not an act of folly which results in the death of thousands of people, both our own and innocent Iraqis. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove were simply playing a game of chess with peoples' lives. They used the threat of terrorism to totally dupe us all.
Bush's utterance of his contribution to sacrifice (not playing golf) is obscene.

Michael:

Al Qaeda and Iran threaten our way of life only to the extent that we allow. We've had politicians, including our President, trying to whip up a frenzy of fear for years, and some of them continue to do so. John McCain seems to believe he is the only one qualified to lead us in wartime, yet the wartime he speaks of has largely passed.
At this point the problem in Iraq is mainly a political one, not a military one, and a military solution is rapidly becoming obsolete.
We should not rule out military action when it's in the interests of our nation, as in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border region, but it's obvious much of our military action in Iraq today is being caused by the military action we took yesterday rather than any emerging threats.
Al Qaeda has lost most of the support it had in Iraq, even among Radical Islamists, and we will have to engage the Iranians through diplomacy if we wish to bring our troops home from a stable, peaceful Iraq.
Engaging Iran can pay two dividends. We will establish a meaningful dialog with a nation we have been at odds with for 30 years, and we can address the issue of nuclear weapons.

Mohamed MALLECK,Swift Current, Canada:

This is an excellent piece, Mr. Zakaria, and while it carries the same message as the abridged version, titled "A Fear That Dempcrats Can Dodge" and also published in today's issue of WAPO, of Peter Beinart's article in the Summer Isue of World Affairs, the analysis in that longer article is faulty because it wrongly argues, despite the Wilsonian Foreign Policy nod it gives to Obama's programme, that foreign allies such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan tolerates in their midst " rogue officials ...[who] may be complicit in jihadist violence'. Elsewhere, he even seems to assert that Saudi Arabi and Pakistan created agents of extremist violence and leveraged them against the US. Of course, these 'agents of extremist violence' [more accurately, counter-imperialist rather than extremist, the imperialism originally targeted being Soviet, but later the target became western imperialism] had been jointly created by the CIA and the Saudi and Pakistani 'rogue elements'.

Truth-seekers will be grateful that your nod to Obama's 'Wilsonianism' is based on a more accurate narrative.

rkerg:

Working hand in hand with 'defense' industry contractors, the fear mongers fear knows no limits. Armed conflicts and war are good for their business and, in the absence of armed conflicts and war, preparation for armed conflicts and war
is pretty good for their business too.

Joshua:

Mr. Zakaria is absolutely correct. We are not at "war" against "violent, extremist Islamists." As Mr. Fallows correctly pointed out, the war that quickly followed the 9/11 attacks ended with the ousting of the Taliban from most of Afghanistan. The war in Iraq was started for completely different reasons (notwithstanding the hyperbole of both sides, the reasons for that invasion are not clear-cut.) In short, my first thought after reading Mr. Zakaria's article is what an opportunity lost.

Our current president can be faulted for many things. As mentioned in this article, he may also be given some credit. However, Mr. Bush's policies since December of 2001 have been disastrous. Iraq could have been successfully contained with renewed inspections (albeit with the threat of enforcement as a truly last option.) In turn, the threat of a more aggressive Middle-East posture could have been leveraged against Syria and Iran. Conversely, the United States could have played a constructive role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and thereby further enhanced our regional stature. Further, our government could have taken their "smoking gun, mushroom cloud" thought far enough to have realized the danger posed from loose nuclear materiel or weapons. We could have aggressively pursued a new nuclear regime that took concrete steps to removing that threat. In short, any number of dramatic possibilities could have been realized. If anything, this administration will be remembered, agonizingly so, as the "what if" presidency.

mnjam:

Zakaria doesn't understand Bush. It's difficult has Bush virtually never says what he acually means. He meant that he is a "war criminal President" and, indeed, he is.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.