by Scoobie Davis
Matthew Yglesias on George W. Bush's failure in the War on Terror:
The administration's first action on the national security front upon taking office was to downgrade the fight against al-Qaeda from the status it held under Bill Clinton, prioritizing instead the danger of "rogue states" by seeking to construct an unworkable missile defense shield. It's impolite to say so, but if Condoleezza Rice had focused less on abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and more on Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger's advice during the transition to "spend more time during your four years on terrorism generally and al-Qaeda specifically than any other issue," there's at least a chance that September 11 might have been averted altogether.
Once the attacks occurred, Bush began to exercise what the media has universally proclaimed to be "strong leadership" on terrorism. In fact, he did nothing of the sort. Instead, after spending the day flying around the country in an apparent state of confusion, he delivered a widely panned address to the nation in which he falsely claimed that, "Immediately following the first attack, I implemented the government's emergency response plans."
The country, however, is in need of a president who can assemble a competent national security team, not a crack staff of speechwriters. The substantive response to the attacks was the war against the Taliban. I, like the vast majority of Americans, supported this effort. Media mythology has it that the military campaign was a stunning success, due to its short duration and low casualty count. This theory conveniently ignores the fact that the president and his team failed to accomplish the actual goals of the war: Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and other top leadership elements got away, and no stable government was introduced in their stead. To this day, the Taliban is conducting military operations in the southern portion of the country.