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Iraq and the ABM Treaty: 'Tough Calls, Good Calls'

It may be dismissed quickly by some as open cheerleading for President Bush. But consider the critical issue of discarding the out-moded ABM treaty with Russia discussed in a commentary in today's The Wall Street Journal and it's hard to judge the decisions made on these issues any way other than favorably. It opens discussing Iraq.

One of the most difficult and consequential decisions of the Bush presidency took place in January of last year: the decision to fundamentally change our strategy by "surging" more U.S. forces to Iraq.

This decision was taken against the backdrop of escalating violence in Iraq, calls for immediate or "phased" withdrawal, prognostications of imminent defeat, and an abundance of political blame directed at the White House. The president's move was met with skepticism and outright vilification, except for a few principled politicians like John McCain and Joe Lieberman. Today, people are getting in line to claim credit for the "surge."

Mr. Bush's decision was guided by a clear strategic principle. The president wanted the U.S. to win, and refashioning our strategy was the best opportunity to succeed in this goal, as well as to leave Iraq policy on a sounder basis for his successor. Whoever wins the presidency in 2008 will be pleased that he did. What a difference a year makes.

And they begin with the Iraq decision one year ago in order draw the parallels common to what are commonly termed "tough decisions." "Tough decisions" are, by definition, the same decisions in which much criticism arises and views commonly split - such as those regarding Iraq last year and the ABM Treaty early in his presidency. For if there were consensus, such decisions would not be characterized as 'tough.'

While there is arguably much to criticize, this is the nature of divided opinion, not a failed presidency. It's important to distinguish the two and, in an election season, ask yourself exactly what it means to you when you hear 'ability to make tough decisions' when a candidate is discussed.

We at ThreatsWatch overwhelmingly prefer clarity over consensus and understanding over agreement. And when core principles guide thinking during trying times and issues, the 'tough decisions' are instinctively less difficult to make and reflect the consistency afforded by followed principles.

While the ABM Treaty decision widely criticized is discussed at length in the Wall Street Journal commentary, of greater interest here today is the decision-making process that delivered it.