At last night's debate, when Rudy Giuliani was asked whether the Iraq war was a mistake, he said, "It's unthinkable that you would leave Saddam Hussein in charge of Iraq and be able to fight the war on terror." This is an almost Romneyesque level of ignorance that I think demands examination.
So what Giuliani is saying is that though there was no relationship between Saddam's government and Al Qaeda, and no meaningful terrorist presence in Iraq, had the invasion never occurred, we would today be utterly unable to combat terrorism. We'd be stymied. Impotent. Left quivering in a fetal position while terrorists destroyed our country piece by piece.
This is the man whom the media tell us over and over has unimpeachable credentials on the issue of terrorism, or as Chris Matthews put it, "Everyone agrees that Rudy has street cred on that issue. He can protect us. That's the image he conveys."
I would hope that Democrats would consider putting aside the "me too" approach to national security that has been so ineffective for them in recent elections, and instead of saying that they'll be tough, attack the Republicans directly. The thought of an ignoramus like Mitt Romney formulating our terrorism policy is pretty frightening, and it seems that Rudy Giuliani, Mr. 9/11, doesn't have much of a clue either. This isn't so much an argument about what specific policies we should employ going forward as about whether the different candidates have even the barest grasp on the issue.
The last thing I would argue for is a Kerry-style, "My ten-point plan is superior to your ten-point plan" approach. But my god - is it too much to ask that the people who want to hold the most powerful office in the world display some minimum level of understanding on an issue as important as this one? And can't the next reporter who interviews Romney or Giuliani press them on what they actually know about terrorism? For instance, how is Al Qaeda different today from what it was six years ago? Where are their sources of support? What effect has the Iraq war had on them? What sorts of actions have proven successful against them so far in places other than Iraq? How do the different governments in the Middle East feel about Al Qaeda, and what sorts of different approaches might be useful in getting cooperation from them in combating terrorism? Have you even thought about these kinds of questions? Well, have you?