Michael Kinsley devotes the entire editorial rail in Sunday's L.A. Times Opinion section to declaring the Bush foray in Iraq a "disaster" — a "monument to folly" — and the president's preemption strategy "a failed doctrine."
In its scale and intent, President Bush's war against Iraq was something new and radical: a premeditated decision to invade, occupy and topple the government of a country that was no imminent threat to the United States. This was not a handful of GIs sent to overthrow Panamanian thug Manuel Noriega or to oust a new Marxist government in tiny Grenada. It was the dispatch of more than 100,000 U.S. troops to implement Bush's post-Sept. 11 doctrine of preemption, one whose dangers President John Quincy Adams understood when he said the United States "goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy."
The planned transfer Wednesday of limited sovereignty from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government occurs with U.S. influence around the world at a low point and insurgent violence in Iraq reaching new heights of deadliness and coordination...All the main justifications for the invasion offered beforehand by the Bush administration and its supporters — weapons of mass destruction, close ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq, a chance to make Baghdad a fountain of democracy that would spread through the region — turned out to be baseless...
The U.S. is also poorer after the war, in lives lost, billions spent and terrorists given new fuel for their rage...Two iconic pictures from Iraq balance the good and the dreadful — the toppling of Hussein's statue and a prisoner crawling on the floor at Abu Ghraib prison with a leash around his neck.
The editorial concludes, under a subhed that reads "A Litany of Costly Errors":
The missteps have been many: listening to Iraqi exiles like Ahmad Chalabi who insisted that their countrymen would welcome invaders; using too few troops, which led to a continuing crime wave and later to kidnappings and full-blown terror attacks. Disbanding the Iraqi army worsened the nation's unemployment problem and left millions of former soldiers unhappy — men with weapons. Keeping the United Nations at arm's length made it harder to regain assistance when the need was dire.
It will take years for widely felt hostility to ebb, in Iraq and other countries. The consequences of arrogance, accompanied by certitude that the world's most powerful military can cure all ills, should be burned into Americans' memory banks.
Preemption is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster. The U.S. needs better intelligence before it acts in the future. It needs to listen to friendly nations. It needs humility.