Howard Dean, by all accounts a bright fellow, seems not to have learned the first rule of getting out of a hole: stop digging. Charles Krauthammer quotes Dean from the latest Newsweek:
One of the attacks they don’t bring up very often anymore is the Saddam Hussein thing, that it’s not safer since Saddam Hussein’s been captured — because we now have 23 troops killed and we’re having fighter planes escorting passenger jets through American airspace. I noticed that line of attack disappeared fairly quickly.
Amazing. As Krauthammer correctly notes, not only have his opponents not stopped bringing up that quote, but the logic behind it is just bizarre.
The idea that we are not safer (a) because we are still losing troops and (b) because al Qaeda has not been extinguished, amounts to an open-court confession of cluelessness on foreign policy.
The first is the equivalent of saying that we were not safer after D-Day because we were still losing troops in Europe. In war, a strategic turning point makes you safer because it hastens victory, hastens the ultimate elimination of the hostile power, hastens the return home of the troops. It does not mean there is an immediate cessation, or even a diminution, of casualties (see: Battle of the Bulge).
The other part of the statement — we cannot be safer because we are still threatened by terrorism — is even more telling. It rests on the wider notion, shared not just by Dean but by many Democrats, that so long as al Qaeda is active, we are never any safer. This rests on the remarkable assumption that we have a single enemy in the world, al Qaeda, and that it and it alone defines “safety.”