To contend that policies conceived and undertaken by this administration have brought “peace” to Iraq, or to Afghanistan, is inconsistent with the facts. Whether a “tide of war” is receding from the international scene, even in the aftermath of the administration’s spectacular targeting of Osama bin Laden, is likewise at least open to dispute. After a few minutes of scrutiny, this analytical basis for momentous policy changes begins to look contrived.

The carnage in Iraq over the past month, as tabulated by the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad, points to one disconnect between White House claims and reality. The prognosis in Kabul, as summarized by January’s National Intelligence Estimate, hardly explains the administration’s self-congratulatory bravado, much less its decision to abandon the field in Afghanistan. Neither does a quick tour d’horizon, from Iran, whose leaders the president’s top intelligence official says “have changed their calculus and are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States,” on to our neighbor Mexico, offer much else to back up the president’s serene analysis of national security.

Declaring something does not always make it true. Peace cannot be declared in the same way as war. In articulating his vision of peace, the president has likened ours to the post-World War II and post-cold war eras. But these wars had in fact ended before the epochs that followed them. The wars of the past decade have, by contrast, gotten a linguistic cleansing. From this, a supposition about peace—“the tide of war is receding”—has become the foundation of an enormous shift in national priorities.