Commentary Magazine


Topic: James Webb

RE: The Tax Issue Is Back

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

As I’ve noted before, Obama has brought the tax issue roaring back. Nothing like a liberal president willing to raise taxes on the non-rich (after promising not to), small businesses, and capital before the economy has rebounded to remind voters of the difference between the two parties. The Wall Street Journal‘s editors note:

Bipartisanship has broken out in the Senate, not that the media bothered to notice. Last week John McCain introduced a resolution stating that “It is the sense of the Senate that the Value Added Tax is a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America’s economic recovery.” The resolution passed 85 to 13.

A VAT is a form of national sales tax applied at every stage of production and carried through to the final price paid by consumers. The typical VAT rate in Europe is close to 20%. That’s about how high a VAT would have to be in the U.S. to balance the federal budget, according to the Tax Foundation. Mr. McCain said about his VAT resolution that “With the economy in such bad shape, we should be cutting tax rates now, shouldn’t we?”

Who were the 13? Two who are retiring — George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) — and a whole bunch of Democrats: Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Ted Kaufman (Del.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Tom Udall (N.M.), James Webb (Va.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). Kaufman may be toast already, but the others might come to regret walking out on the tax limb.

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Obama’s Multilateral Infatuation

As aptly described by George Will, the upside of the Copenhagen “agreement” is that it is no agreement at all. It’s yet another example of the utter unworkability of “multilateralism” as an operating principle in international affairs – and the silliness that Obama displays in attempting to pretend otherwise. As Will observes:

The 1992 Rio climate summit begat Kyoto. It, like Copenhagen, which Kyoto begat, was “saved,” as Copenhagen was, by a last-minute American intervention (Vice President Al Gore’s) that midwifed an agreement that most signatories evaded for 12 years. The Clinton-Gore administration never submitted Kyoto’s accomplishment for ratification, the Senate having denounced its terms 95 to 0.

Copenhagen will beget Mexico City next November. Before then, Congress will give “the international community” other reasons to pout. Congress will refuse to burden the economy with cap-and-trade carbon-reduction requirements and will spurn calls for sending billions in “climate reparations” to China and other countries. Representatives of those nations, when they did not have their hands out in Copenhagen grasping for America’s wealth, clapped their hands in ovations for Hugo Chávez and other kleptocrats who denounced capitalism while clamoring for its fruits.

Obama’s motives for perpetuating this charade are unclear. He didn’t want to be humiliated in Copenhagen a second time, of course, so it was essential to mask the entire affair’s uselessness and Obama’s inability to bend others to his will. But that, I think, is not all that’s going on here. It was also essential for him to preserve some sense that this sort of confab is credible and important.

Obama seems actually to believe the we-are-the-world hooey, which assumes common values and goals among nations that share neither. And even the supposedly “better Obama” at Oslo evinced an ongoing aversion to unilateral action by the U.S. and a preference for acting in concert — or avoiding acting in concert — with the “international community.” (“America’s commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace.”) So it wouldn’t do to have Copenhagen collapse spectacularly, thus demonstrating once again that getting China, India, and Zimbabwe on the same page with the U.S. is no easy feat.

But Obama clearly had another motive in Copenhagen — to use an international agreement to bludgeon Congress into doing what it had already indicated it was unwilling to do. Even Democrats spotted what he was up to and at least temporarily remembered their constitutional roles. James Webb wrote to Obama in early December:

I would like to express my concern regarding reports that the Administration may believe it has the unilateral power to commit the government of the United States to certain standards that may be agreed upon at the upcoming [conference]. … Although details have not been made available, recent statements by Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern indicate that negotiators may be intending to commit the United States to a nationwide emission reduction program. … you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country.

And had China, India, and all the rest been just a bit more amenable, that is what, one suspects, Obama was more than willing to do — box in the Congress with a unilateral commitment.

While we might breathe a sigh of relief that Copenhagen ended as it did, it is yet another unpleasant reminder that Obama’s reverence for the “international community” is virtually without limit. The constant failure of the “international community” to produce any agreement of consequence (whether it’s enforceable sanctions on rogue wannabe-nuclear states or anything else) and its unseemly habit of money-grubbing from developed nations have, at least so far, not cooled Obama’s ardor for multilateral confabs. But stay tuned: it’s less than a year before the next three-ring circus in Mexico City.

As aptly described by George Will, the upside of the Copenhagen “agreement” is that it is no agreement at all. It’s yet another example of the utter unworkability of “multilateralism” as an operating principle in international affairs – and the silliness that Obama displays in attempting to pretend otherwise. As Will observes:

The 1992 Rio climate summit begat Kyoto. It, like Copenhagen, which Kyoto begat, was “saved,” as Copenhagen was, by a last-minute American intervention (Vice President Al Gore’s) that midwifed an agreement that most signatories evaded for 12 years. The Clinton-Gore administration never submitted Kyoto’s accomplishment for ratification, the Senate having denounced its terms 95 to 0.

Copenhagen will beget Mexico City next November. Before then, Congress will give “the international community” other reasons to pout. Congress will refuse to burden the economy with cap-and-trade carbon-reduction requirements and will spurn calls for sending billions in “climate reparations” to China and other countries. Representatives of those nations, when they did not have their hands out in Copenhagen grasping for America’s wealth, clapped their hands in ovations for Hugo Chávez and other kleptocrats who denounced capitalism while clamoring for its fruits.

Obama’s motives for perpetuating this charade are unclear. He didn’t want to be humiliated in Copenhagen a second time, of course, so it was essential to mask the entire affair’s uselessness and Obama’s inability to bend others to his will. But that, I think, is not all that’s going on here. It was also essential for him to preserve some sense that this sort of confab is credible and important.

Obama seems actually to believe the we-are-the-world hooey, which assumes common values and goals among nations that share neither. And even the supposedly “better Obama” at Oslo evinced an ongoing aversion to unilateral action by the U.S. and a preference for acting in concert — or avoiding acting in concert — with the “international community.” (“America’s commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure the peace.”) So it wouldn’t do to have Copenhagen collapse spectacularly, thus demonstrating once again that getting China, India, and Zimbabwe on the same page with the U.S. is no easy feat.

But Obama clearly had another motive in Copenhagen — to use an international agreement to bludgeon Congress into doing what it had already indicated it was unwilling to do. Even Democrats spotted what he was up to and at least temporarily remembered their constitutional roles. James Webb wrote to Obama in early December:

I would like to express my concern regarding reports that the Administration may believe it has the unilateral power to commit the government of the United States to certain standards that may be agreed upon at the upcoming [conference]. … Although details have not been made available, recent statements by Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern indicate that negotiators may be intending to commit the United States to a nationwide emission reduction program. … you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country.

And had China, India, and all the rest been just a bit more amenable, that is what, one suspects, Obama was more than willing to do — box in the Congress with a unilateral commitment.

While we might breathe a sigh of relief that Copenhagen ended as it did, it is yet another unpleasant reminder that Obama’s reverence for the “international community” is virtually without limit. The constant failure of the “international community” to produce any agreement of consequence (whether it’s enforceable sanctions on rogue wannabe-nuclear states or anything else) and its unseemly habit of money-grubbing from developed nations have, at least so far, not cooled Obama’s ardor for multilateral confabs. But stay tuned: it’s less than a year before the next three-ring circus in Mexico City.

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Obama and Webb?

Here is my prediction: Barack Obama will choose Jim Webb to be his vice-presidential running-mate. Both logic and a not-so-subtle clue make this seem likely.

The logic part is easy. As a former secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan and a highly decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, the Senator from Virginia can be sold to voters as at least as ready as John McCain to answer the telephone at 3AM should it ring. This certainly won’t fill the gap left by Obama’s own dearth of foreign-policy and military experience, but nothing will.  

As for the clue part, Obama has made a point of pressing for negotiations with anyone and everyone, even if they head regimes engaged in supporting terrorism, supplying arms to insurgents killing American soldiers, and acquiring nuclear weapons.

Webb has been busy bringing himself into synch. On This Week with George Stephanopolous, Webb pointed out that he had been shot at in Vietnam with weapons made in China, which didn’t preclude talking to Beijing:

We developed a diplomatic relationship with China that over the years paid out. And the greatest mistake over the past five years of this occupation is that our national leadership has not found a way to aggressively engage Iran without taking other options off the table.

Of course, the idea of talking to anyone and everyone is  proving to be a delicate one, made all the more tricky by Jimmy Carter’s mission to Damascus to meet with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas.

An spokesman for his campaign says that Obama “does not agree with President Carter’s decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements.”

But how about Ahmadinejad? Has he renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and abided by its agreements, including, most importantly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if the answer to these questions is no, why would Obama meet with him?

James Webb is very smart. But even if he is chosen for the Veep slot, he is not going to help Obama find a way to resolve the contradiction brought into plain view by our worst ex-president.  �

Here is my prediction: Barack Obama will choose Jim Webb to be his vice-presidential running-mate. Both logic and a not-so-subtle clue make this seem likely.

The logic part is easy. As a former secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan and a highly decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, the Senator from Virginia can be sold to voters as at least as ready as John McCain to answer the telephone at 3AM should it ring. This certainly won’t fill the gap left by Obama’s own dearth of foreign-policy and military experience, but nothing will.  

As for the clue part, Obama has made a point of pressing for negotiations with anyone and everyone, even if they head regimes engaged in supporting terrorism, supplying arms to insurgents killing American soldiers, and acquiring nuclear weapons.

Webb has been busy bringing himself into synch. On This Week with George Stephanopolous, Webb pointed out that he had been shot at in Vietnam with weapons made in China, which didn’t preclude talking to Beijing:

We developed a diplomatic relationship with China that over the years paid out. And the greatest mistake over the past five years of this occupation is that our national leadership has not found a way to aggressively engage Iran without taking other options off the table.

Of course, the idea of talking to anyone and everyone is  proving to be a delicate one, made all the more tricky by Jimmy Carter’s mission to Damascus to meet with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas.

An spokesman for his campaign says that Obama “does not agree with President Carter’s decision to go forward with this meeting because he does not support negotiations with Hamas until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements.”

But how about Ahmadinejad? Has he renounced terrorism, recognized Israel’s right to exist, and abided by its agreements, including, most importantly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? And if the answer to these questions is no, why would Obama meet with him?

James Webb is very smart. But even if he is chosen for the Veep slot, he is not going to help Obama find a way to resolve the contradiction brought into plain view by our worst ex-president.  �

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The Seventh-Best World War II Novel

Roger Kimball, one of our finest critics, has delivered a devastating dissection of Norman Mailer’s overrated career, which consisted of political posturing and juvenile behavior interspersed with the production of mediocre novels—at best. (Kimball’s critique may be found here.)

I have very little to add beyond a few thoughts on the book that launched Mailer’s career—The Naked and the Dead, written in 1948 when its author was a 25-year-old unknown. Kimball is dead right when he describes this work as “pretentious,” not particularly “well-crafted,” and lacking in narrative “momentum.” Kimball writes, “Its heavy-handed psychologizing and use of four-letter words were thought smart in 1948; most contemporary readers will find them quaint if not downright embarrassing.” That was certainly my reaction upon reading The Naked and the Dead years ago. What was all the fuss about, I wondered? (I recently had a similar feeling on reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.)

Yet The Naked and the Dead continues to win gushing praise. David Ulin in the Los Angeles Times writes that it “ is considered by many the greatest American war novel ever written.”

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Roger Kimball, one of our finest critics, has delivered a devastating dissection of Norman Mailer’s overrated career, which consisted of political posturing and juvenile behavior interspersed with the production of mediocre novels—at best. (Kimball’s critique may be found here.)

I have very little to add beyond a few thoughts on the book that launched Mailer’s career—The Naked and the Dead, written in 1948 when its author was a 25-year-old unknown. Kimball is dead right when he describes this work as “pretentious,” not particularly “well-crafted,” and lacking in narrative “momentum.” Kimball writes, “Its heavy-handed psychologizing and use of four-letter words were thought smart in 1948; most contemporary readers will find them quaint if not downright embarrassing.” That was certainly my reaction upon reading The Naked and the Dead years ago. What was all the fuss about, I wondered? (I recently had a similar feeling on reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.)

Yet The Naked and the Dead continues to win gushing praise. David Ulin in the Los Angeles Times writes that it “ is considered by many the greatest American war novel ever written.”

Really? It’s better than Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (the greatest novel of the Civil War), Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (the greatest American novel of World War I), or James Webb’s Fields of Fire (the greatest novel of the Vietnam War)? I think not.

It’s not even the best American novel of World War II. Not by a long shot. A number of books are actually much better, starting with, in no particular order, James Gould Cozzens’s Guard of Honor, James Jones’s From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny. I even prefer John Hersey’s slight work, A Bell for Adano, which is more like a long short story than a full-blown novel.

Let’s see. By my count that would make The Naked and the Dead at most the seventh-best novel written by an American about World War II, to say nothing of all American war novels. Of course the best novel about WWII wasn’t penned by an American. It was the three-volume Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh, whose biting wit, compelling plotting, vivid irony, and sparkling writing puts the puerile efforts of Norman Mailer to shame.

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Empty Rhetoric on the Surge

“If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. . . . A contagion of violence could spill out across the country. . . . For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally. . . . And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America.”

This short passage was the heart of George Bush’s State of the Union address, and the words form the heart of his argument about Iraq. Not about whether we should have invaded Iraq in 2003 or whether we conducted the invasion competently—Bush certainly got at least one of those two questions wrong—but about where we go from here.

How do Bush’s critics answer? They give what seem to be pre-programmed Democratic responses. Senator James Webb proposed “an immediate shift toward strong, regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.” What might that “formula” be? That remains to be revealed.

Hillary Clinton, who until recently was building centrist credentials by arguing that we should send more troops to Iraq, now opposes Bush’s plan to do just that. “We’ve been down this road before,” she says. Instead she calls for “a new strategy to produce what we need: a stable Iraq government that takes over for its own people so our troops can finish their job.” What will this “strategy” consist of? She doesn’t say.

Clinton’s main rival—as of now—for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama, proposes to “start bringing our troops home” in order to “bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.” And when might that end be? And what might that end be? On these questions Obama stays mum.

Until the critics respond to Bush by arguing either that American capitulation will not lead to the consequences he sketches or by explaining what alternative “strategy” or “formula” will avert this capitulation, they are playing fast and loose with our nation’s safety. Whether Bush’s surge is sufficient is another question, which I will address in my next post.

“If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. . . . A contagion of violence could spill out across the country. . . . For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is their greatest ally. . . . And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America.”

This short passage was the heart of George Bush’s State of the Union address, and the words form the heart of his argument about Iraq. Not about whether we should have invaded Iraq in 2003 or whether we conducted the invasion competently—Bush certainly got at least one of those two questions wrong—but about where we go from here.

How do Bush’s critics answer? They give what seem to be pre-programmed Democratic responses. Senator James Webb proposed “an immediate shift toward strong, regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.” What might that “formula” be? That remains to be revealed.

Hillary Clinton, who until recently was building centrist credentials by arguing that we should send more troops to Iraq, now opposes Bush’s plan to do just that. “We’ve been down this road before,” she says. Instead she calls for “a new strategy to produce what we need: a stable Iraq government that takes over for its own people so our troops can finish their job.” What will this “strategy” consist of? She doesn’t say.

Clinton’s main rival—as of now—for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama, proposes to “start bringing our troops home” in order to “bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.” And when might that end be? And what might that end be? On these questions Obama stays mum.

Until the critics respond to Bush by arguing either that American capitulation will not lead to the consequences he sketches or by explaining what alternative “strategy” or “formula” will avert this capitulation, they are playing fast and loose with our nation’s safety. Whether Bush’s surge is sufficient is another question, which I will address in my next post.

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In Re: James Webb

Unlike most of the men and women who populate the higher reaches of American politics, James Webb, the new Democratic Senator from Virginia, is a genuinely interesting person—and one who thinks and feels with some passion. Rare among U.S. Senators, he appears to have made decisions not solely directed toward maintaining his “political viability.” In his youth, he followed family tradition and joined the Marines. As a junior officer he was wounded in combat in Vietnam. Back home he worked on Capitol Hill and wrote a series of novels centered around military life in the 1960′s and 70′s. An Annapolis grad, he served as Reagan’s last Secretary of the Navy.

In my own youth, I happened to work in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Warfare, which was set up in the aftermath of Vietnam to ensure that our forces would be ready for the next round of unconventional warfare. Early on an officer helpfully gave me a copy of the Marine commandant’s reading list, which I commend to anyone who wants to understand how the military thinks about itself. In addition to the expected Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Mao, I found Webb’s novels on the list. They were far more readable than most of the other books, so I read them all. (For the record, my colleagues preferred Pat Conroy.)

Notwithstanding former Senator George Allen’s attempt to discredit Webb by publishing some of his novels’ sex scenes, the books contained a lot of extremely astute observation about living and striving among the D.C. political class. His heroes were all acutely articulate about the betrayal of soldiers by politicians during Vietnam—a war that Webb insisted was winnable well up until the end, had we wanted to do what it took. Indeed, he took the perspective of the eternal junior officer, brave and honorable, up against the perfidies of cynical and jaded politicians and generals who were no better than pols.

His real-life actions had the same impassioned cast: he resigned with great righteousness as Secretary of the Navy over a fairly minor cut in the planned “600-ship Navy.” As if the lower number challenged his honor. He appears to have left the GOP in similar pique.

It was a clever choice by the Democratic leadership to have the newly elected Senator Webb give the Democratic response to the State of the Union address. He is a solid orator with an impressively deep voice and the ability to formulate standard Democratic ideas in less clichéd language. Predictably he advocated the same economic populism that got him elected two months ago. On the higher-stakes matter of Iraq, the Senator carefully listed all of the members of his family who have served in the armed forces, announced that he had warned in advance that the war was a mistake, and demanded an immediate pullout of a large number of troops. His emotions were barely restrained. But neither feelings nor honorable military service and sacrifice are the ultimate arbiters of the rightness of a military policy, or the virtue of a hasty retreat.

Now that he is a powerful United States Senator it is past time for James Webb to stop thinking of himself as the only honest man in the room. Junior officers lead platoons. There are reasons that they don’t make the big decisions—and lacking the ability to think dispassionately is one of them.

Unlike most of the men and women who populate the higher reaches of American politics, James Webb, the new Democratic Senator from Virginia, is a genuinely interesting person—and one who thinks and feels with some passion. Rare among U.S. Senators, he appears to have made decisions not solely directed toward maintaining his “political viability.” In his youth, he followed family tradition and joined the Marines. As a junior officer he was wounded in combat in Vietnam. Back home he worked on Capitol Hill and wrote a series of novels centered around military life in the 1960′s and 70′s. An Annapolis grad, he served as Reagan’s last Secretary of the Navy.

In my own youth, I happened to work in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Warfare, which was set up in the aftermath of Vietnam to ensure that our forces would be ready for the next round of unconventional warfare. Early on an officer helpfully gave me a copy of the Marine commandant’s reading list, which I commend to anyone who wants to understand how the military thinks about itself. In addition to the expected Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and Mao, I found Webb’s novels on the list. They were far more readable than most of the other books, so I read them all. (For the record, my colleagues preferred Pat Conroy.)

Notwithstanding former Senator George Allen’s attempt to discredit Webb by publishing some of his novels’ sex scenes, the books contained a lot of extremely astute observation about living and striving among the D.C. political class. His heroes were all acutely articulate about the betrayal of soldiers by politicians during Vietnam—a war that Webb insisted was winnable well up until the end, had we wanted to do what it took. Indeed, he took the perspective of the eternal junior officer, brave and honorable, up against the perfidies of cynical and jaded politicians and generals who were no better than pols.

His real-life actions had the same impassioned cast: he resigned with great righteousness as Secretary of the Navy over a fairly minor cut in the planned “600-ship Navy.” As if the lower number challenged his honor. He appears to have left the GOP in similar pique.

It was a clever choice by the Democratic leadership to have the newly elected Senator Webb give the Democratic response to the State of the Union address. He is a solid orator with an impressively deep voice and the ability to formulate standard Democratic ideas in less clichéd language. Predictably he advocated the same economic populism that got him elected two months ago. On the higher-stakes matter of Iraq, the Senator carefully listed all of the members of his family who have served in the armed forces, announced that he had warned in advance that the war was a mistake, and demanded an immediate pullout of a large number of troops. His emotions were barely restrained. But neither feelings nor honorable military service and sacrifice are the ultimate arbiters of the rightness of a military policy, or the virtue of a hasty retreat.

Now that he is a powerful United States Senator it is past time for James Webb to stop thinking of himself as the only honest man in the room. Junior officers lead platoons. There are reasons that they don’t make the big decisions—and lacking the ability to think dispassionately is one of them.

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