There's nothing wrong with using the positions of trusted figures in order to figure out your own leanings. A lot of policy research comes out in a given day and plenty of complicated conversations have already occurred -- it's impossible to navigate through it all without trusting the analyses of certain sources. But wars are a different matter. History shows they cannot be greenlighted on the assumption that fine leadership will elevate an unlikely undertaking. The leadership will fail, and so will the venture.Very true. But I think this still leaves too much resting on the question of whether or not we trust the competence of our leaders. It's something that bothers me about some (though not Ezra's) comments about Iraq: basically, some liberals seem to believe that the only thing that went wrong about Iraq was the leadership. To put it bluntly, I think a lot more Democrats would have supported the Iraq war if Clinton had been pushing it.
The problem is that there's no evidence that Clinton would have been able to prosecute this war significantly more successfully than Bush has. On the matter of troop deployments, I'll simply point out that the Clinton State Department concluded that America could send 400,000 troops and still produce a failed state. I'll also point out that, like every other data point against this war, this was knowable years ago.
To put it bluntly, the point about trusting someone like Clinton is not that he would have executed this war more competently, but that he would not have started this war at all.
Furthermore, if Clinton had used the same tactics to sell the Iraq War as the Bush White House had - lies, lies, lies, and lies - then I would hope that Democrats would have abandoned Clinton far more readily than Republicans have abandoned the GOP. (Right.)