In the first debate, John Kerry criticized Bush for letting Osama slip away at Tora Bora, saying that "The president relied on Afghan warlords and he outsourced that job too. That's wrong." John Edwards brought this up again in the Vice-Presidential debate. Enough.
Unless John Kerry offered his constructive suggestion prior to the battle, he is simply engaging in the type of second-guessing for which Red Sox fans are famous.
More importantly, Kerry has not offered any evidence at all that the decision to rely on Afghan troops was made by the Bush White House, rather than by the officers in command at the Pentagon. By contrast, when Kerry second-guesses the number of occupation troops in Baghdad, he at least supports his point with a misleading story about the testimony of General Shinseki.
Based on this WaPo account, the decision was made by General Tommy Franks, who continues to defend it. However, the military did switch tactics thereafter, so one might reasonably conclude that mistakes were made.
Which is regrettable. But the US commanders had scored astonishing success in Afghanistan with a combination of US air power, US Special Forces, and local troops, so the decision to use local troops at Tora Bora was, one might argue, reasonable but wrong.
And what is Kerry's point - that he will sack generals who make reasonable decisions that don't pan out? Or that he will draw on some combination of psychic precogntion and his four months of combat experience as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam to fine-tune and micromanage the battlefield operations of the Pentagon?
Tora Bora? No mas.
MAS: No, I am not second-guessing Kerry! Here is my original guess, from over two years ago when I first saw him address this.
Mr. Lowry provides the killer contemporaneous Kerry quotes:
At the time, Kerry was all for it. He told an interviewer in late 2001 that the United States could avoid making Afghanistan into another Vietnam, "as long as we make smart decisions, and we don't go in and repeat what the British or the Russians tried to do. And I don't think we will; I think we're on a different footing." In mid-December 2001, right in the middle of the battle of Tora Bora, he supported the administration's strategy: "I think we have been smart. I think the administration leadership has done it well, and we are right on track." Kerry only cautioned against using too much force: "I am not for a prolonged bombing campaign," he said.
Well, that was then.
And here is the transcript - classic! Kerry is introduced by Larry King, who tells the Rassman Bronze Star story; Kerry lauds what we are doing in Afghanistan; and then this:
KING: What about enhancing this war, Senator Kerry. What are your thoughts on going on further than Afghanistan, all terrorist places...
KERRY: Oh, I think we clearly have to keep the pressure on terrorism globally. This doesn't end with Afghanistan by any imagination. And I think the president has made that clear. I think we have made that clear. Terrorism is a global menace. It's a scourge. And it is absolutely vital that we continue, for instance, Saddam Hussein. I think we...
KING: We should go to Iraq? KERRY: Well, that -- what do you and how you choose to do it, we have a lot of options. Absent smoking gun evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the immediate events of September 11, the president doesn't have the authorization to proceed forward there.
But we clearly are he ought to proceed to put pressure on him with respect to the weapons of mass destruction. I think we should be supporting an opposition. There are other ways for us, clandestinely and otherwise, to put enormous pressure on him and I think we should do it.