Last night I was talking with a friend of mine about what the US had done in Iraq. He thought that invading Iraq was the right way to go, but blamed the neo-cons for messing up the execution. I responded that, if we were observing the outcome of poor execution, then the decision to go to war was truly a no-brainer and that, at very least, you had to give the neo-cons credit for the decision to go to war in the first place. (Note to Dan: the conservatives base is isolationist and was opposed to the war — Dick Cheney notwithstanding)
In any sufficiently large scale operation, LOTS of mistakes will be made. It is easy to find them, point to them, and say that this shows that the people running the operation are incompetent. Moreover claims of bad execution can be a source of common ground when one wants to get along with people who are viscerally opposed to the people doing the execution.
If we say that part of good execution is *STARTING*, there is no one executing better than the neo-cons. Kerry and Gore would not have prosecuted the war AT ALL and that would have been a much bigger failure of execution than any this administration has done. And for what its worth, many of the purported “mistakes” are actually the best of bad options. e.g. getting access from Turkey would have meant paying too much cash AND selling out the Kurds and actually using more troops on the ground would have meant either much higher US casualties or flatenning Fallujah and Najaf, neither of which strike me as good ideas.