projection n. (Psychiatry) A defense mechanism by which your own traits and emotions are attributed to someone else.

Exhibit A. Tom Friedman.

Friedman asserts that President Bush’s plan for Iraq is “the greatest shake of the dice any president has voluntarily engaged in since Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Japan.” What he calls “Mr Bush’s audacious shake of the dice” appeals to him. This is the idea that an invasion of Iraq, followed by the installation of a democratic regime is

a geopolitical game-changer. It could help nudge the whole Arab-Muslim world onto a more progressive track, something that coaxing simply will not do anymore. It’s something that can only be accomplished by building a different model in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. No, you don’t see this every day. This is really bold.

But Tom has a problem. He worries that “[Bush] and his team are the only people who would ever have conceived this project, but they may be the worst people to implement it.” This is so for the following reasons:

I mean that if taking out Saddam and rebuilding Iraq had been my goal from the minute I took office (as it was for the Bush team), I would not have angered all of Europe by trashing the Kyoto global warming treaty without offering an alternative. I would not have alienated the entire Russian national security elite by telling the Russians that we were ripping up the ABM treaty and that they would just have to get used to it. (You’re now seeing their revenge.) I would not have proposed one radical tax cut on top of another on the eve of a huge, costly nation-building marathon abroad.

I would, though, have rallied the nation for real energy conservation and initiated a Manhattan Project for alternative energies so I would not find myself with $2.25-per-gallon gasoline on the eve of this war because OPEC capacity is nearly tapped out. I would have told the Palestinians that until they stop suicide bombing and get a more serious leadership, we’re not dealing with them, but I would also have told the Israelis that every new or expanded settlement they built would cost them $100 million in U.S. aid. And I would have told the Arabs: “While we’ll deal with the Iraqi threat, we have no imperial designs on your countries. We are not on a crusade but we will not sit idle if you tolerate extremists in your midst who imperil our democracy.”

Now, Tom Friedman looks at this evidence and concludes that

the president is presenting us with a beautiful carved mahogany table a big, bold, gutsy vision. But if you look underneath, you discover that this table has only one leg. His bold vision on Iraq is not supported by boldness in other areas. And so I am terribly worried that Mr. Bush has told us the right thing to do, but won’t be able to do it right.

That is one way of interpreting the evidence. The other way is to say there is no big vision. There is no evidence that the Administration has planned for anything other than a large-scale invasion which they expect to be over in the space of a few months at most. All of the things that Friedman lists support that interpretation. But Tom Friedman is an uncomfortable liberal hawk. He wants to believe that what’s happening is that his government has a grand and good plan for spreading democracy through the world, because this is what he himself would like to see happen. He is projecting his wishes onto the President.

Friedman is right about one thing. He says “Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it”. The problem is that it doesn’t follow that what Bush believes in is Friedman’s grand vision. I think it’s much more likely that be just believes in getting rid of Saddam Hussein, come hell or high water, and hasn’t looked much beyond that. I think the litany of policy choices that Friedman recites supports that interpretation much better than Friedman’s wishful thinking.

Update: Dan Drezner comments in response to this post and contributions by Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias. Digby is also very good.