September 02, 2004

Bush, Kerry and Iraq

Walter Russell Mead:

For Bush, I think you would have to talk about an overall average. There are so many things. I'd give him a solid B to B+ in terms of managing relations with the great powers; that is to say, Russia, China, India, and Japan. I'd give him an A in South Asia. Bush gets points for the combination of dealing with President [Pervez] Musharraf--and getting Pakistan, which had been a Taliban backer, more or less on course--and preventing a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

[Concerning] Iraq, I guess I would divide between effort and achievement. I'd give an A for effort. I would also say that the administration made the right decision that Saddam Hussein was the next address to visit, but I think the administration obviously did not do a very good job of building international support before the war, and [it] clearly underestimated the risks and difficulties that would follow afterward. [Administration officials] also didn't take advantage of some of the planning that their own State Department was doing for postwar reconstruction. They have to lose some points there. I guess you are stuck with a C-.

Q: So you give him an A in Iraq for effort?

A: Yes. But in terms of achievement, just a C-. Saddam Hussein is gone, so you can't flunk him. But you might also say "incomplete." If six months from now, a year from now, we are looking at an Iraqi government that more or less has a security system evolving, if the Shiite situation has calmed down a little bit and [the government is] able to concentrate on the more dangerous insurgency in the north within the Sunni triangle, and if Iraqis are more and more taking the lead politically, well maybe it works out. But it is too soon to tell.

Yeah, that's about right. And don't miss this interesting part:

Q: The Kerry campaign is making much of the Bush administration's strained relations with European powers--other than Britain--and it is clear Kerry is mostly concerned about France and Germany. Would the French have been involved normally?

A: If you are going to fail Americans for not having good relations with France, then a lot of our presidents would have to come down in their grades, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, who failed to have good relations with [Free French President] Charles de Gaulle even when we were in the midst of physically liberating France from the Nazis. I do think that the Bush people probably thought that in the end France will do what it so often does, which is sort of pounce and prance and drive everyone crazy and get all the limelight and then at the end of the day go along.

The real problem was Germany. It is interesting that the Kerry people have not made U.S.-German relations more of a focus, because, in fact, what has changed is that Germany sided with Paris rather than with Washington in this latest round. There are a lot of factors there, but I think the reality is that even before the invasion of Iraq, when Gerhard Schroeder was re-elected chancellor on a pledge to oppose Bush's policies no matter what, the die was cast. Bush at that point had not taken a lot of the steps seen as so provocative later...

Q: So, a B or a B- for relations with Europe?

A: Probably a B because, at the end of the day, the biggest loser of the past year was France, not the United States. A year ago, France was defying America and leading a worldwide coalition against us. Now, after failing to influence the leader of the new EU [European Union] Commission, it is stuck with the transport portfolio in the new EU Commission. So, in a sense, France paid a much higher price for this than Bush did.

They sure did.

Which brings me to my post of earlier today. There I asked whether Kerry's statement that "(w)hen it comes to Iraq, itÕs not that I would have done one thing differently, I wouldÕve done almost everything differently" was more by way of honest, serious criticism or more merely evocative of the phenom of hindsight being 20-20.

To explore this issue, it helps to take a look at some of Kerry's contemporaneous policy statements re: Iraq just before the war.

Here's a pretty typical one from a few months before the war (January '03):

...we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses.

He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. He miscalculated an eight-year war with Iran. He miscalculated the invasion of Kuwait. He miscalculated America's response to that act of naked aggression. He miscalculated the result of setting oil rigs on fire. He miscalculated the impact of sending scuds into Israel and trying to assassinate an American President. He miscalculated his own military strength. He miscalculated the Arab world's response to his misconduct. And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction.

That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm.

So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War. Regrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies. When it finally did speak, it was with hasty war talk instead of a coherent call for Iraqi disarmament. And that made it possible for other Arab regimes to shift their focus to the perils of war for themselves rather than keeping the focus on the perils posed by Saddam's deadly arsenal. Indeed, for a time, the Administration's unilateralism, in effect, elevated Saddam in the eyes of his neighbors to a level he never would have achieved on his own, undermining America's standing with most of the coalition partners which had joined us in repelling the invasion of Kuwait a decade ago.

In U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, the United Nations has now affirmed that Saddam Hussein must disarm or face the most serious consequences. Let me make it clear that the burden is resoundingly on Saddam Hussein to live up to the ceasefire agreement he signed and make clear to the world how he disposed of weapons he previously admitted to possessing. But the burden is also clearly on the Bush Administration to do the hard work of building a broad coalition at the U.N. and the necessary work of educating America about the rationale for war.

As I have said frequently and repeat here today, the United States should never go to war because it wants to, the United States should go to war because we have to. And we don't have to until we have exhausted the remedies available, built legitimacy and earned the consent of the American people, absent, of course, an imminent threat requiring urgent action.

The Administration must pass this test. I believe they must take the time to do the hard work of diplomacy. They must do a better job of making their case to the American people and to the world.

I have no doubt of the outcome of war itself should it be necessary. We will win. But what matters is not just what we win but what we lose. We need to make certain that we have not unnecessarily twisted so many arms, created so many reluctant partners, abused the trust of Congress, or strained so many relations, that the longer term and more immediate vital war on terror is made more difficult. And we should be particularly concerned that we do not go alone or essentially alone if we can avoid it, because the complications and costs of post-war Iraq would be far better managed and shared with United Nation's participation. And, while American security must never be ceded to any institution or to another institution's decision, I say to the President, show respect for the process of international diplomacy because it is not only right, it can make America stronger - and show the world some appropriate patience in building a genuine coalition. Mr. President, do not rush to war.

And I say to the United Nations, show respect for your own mandates. Do not find refuge in excuses and equivocation. Stand up for the rule of law, not just in words but in deeds. Not just in theory but in reality. Stand up for our common goal: either bringing about Iraq's peaceful disarmament or the decisive military victory of a multilateral coalition.

Wow, where to start will all this (it's a bit like reading Derrida, no)?

How about here:

"Regrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies."

And, just after:

"Mr. President, do not rush to war."

It's Kerry vs. Kerry again.

I mean, which is it?

On the one hand, Kerry ostensibly seems to have wanted that Bush bring the Iraq matter to the UNSC (which could quite likely, even per Kerry above, have led to war given Saddam's history of obfuscation) right after 9/11 (er, and what about that little Afghan 'thang?).

But, on the other hand, a bit later it's the 'don't rush to war' theme.

As a Kerry foreign policy team will largely prove a Clintonista reunion of sorts--the above approach makes perfect sense.

Send mixed (but jingo!) signals borne of confusion and amateurism (the cavalry is coming to Sarajevo soonest!)--and then slow down so as to give more time for diplomacy and the 'process' (contact group, Yasushi, and so on)--since, of course, there was no real resoluteness or intent to go to war in the first place.

Result? All the attendant lack of policy direction, confusion in world capitals, whispering campaigns about a lack of American resolve--you know, perfect conditions for al-Q to flourish (or the Bosnian Serbs to massacre residents of Gorazde and such).

But back to the Walter Russell Mead interview and Kerry's contention that he would have done it all differently vis-a-vis Iraq.

The reality is, with Chirac and Schroder in power, a President Kerry (or Gore) would very likely not have gotten them on board the Iraq war effort either. So all this talk about working the U.N. and massaging the allies rings pretty hollow, doesn't it (especially given Colin Powell's yeoman's effort in gaining unanimous passage of 1441)?

In fairness, Kerry talks a lot about the importance of not ignoring post-war planning. Winning the peace is indeed critical. But this is pretty empty talk, isn't it?

Let's be plain.

Would Kerry have committed the 350,000 odd troops to theater that would have been required to truly help secure that country to get the reconstruction moving in earnest?

Would Kerry have oh so adeptly avoided all the pitfalls of disbanding the Iraqi Army?

Would his de-Baathification effort have been just-so; what Les Gelb calls (in a different context re: his confederation proposal) the 'Goldilocks' approach (not too much, not too little--just right).

Would legions of Arabists and other regional specialists have flooded the Green Zone, supplanted all nefarious Pentagon influence, and made all Najafians and Fallujans happy that we understood the regional dynamics to a tee, were there to help, and would not besmirch their national dignity?

Put differently, would we, to paraphrase Rodney King, have all gotten along swimmingly straight out of the gates?

Would Kerry have gotten Turkey on board in time for 'major combat operations' too?

Would thousands of Blue Helmets be assisting with patrolling Ramadi and Kufa (remember now; France would almost certainly not have approved a UNSC resolution authorizing such a deployment)?

Would specialized constabulatory forces be in country--helping minimize any alienation of the local populace--to help complement an extremely sophisticated counter-insurgency campaign expertly managed by a Les Aspin type?

I doubt it.

Don't get me wrong.

Kerry might have done a few things better here and there in Iraq.

But, I'd wager, the biggest difference between Kerry and Bush on Iraq is pretty simple. It's that Kerry would never have gone to war with Iraq in the first place (despite all the tough talk, war authorization vote, etc)

Now, you might think that's great.

But for those of us who think, given what we thought the intel was at the time, that it was a necessary war to wage in the post 9/11 era--that's ultimately the big difference between Kerry and Bush you should focus on as you make your pick come November.

So, back to Walter Russell Mead's grades. If Bush deserved an A for effort on Iraq--what would Kerry merit? Oh, say a C-/D+ in my book. And, as the effort grade is likely so pitiable, well--there's really no point in giving a grade to Kerry for 'execution' or 'achievement' is there? I mean, there wouldn't really be anything to achieve...

Posted by Gregory at September 2, 2004 10:25 PM
Comments

What about Afghanistan? - people forget that it wasn't a fait accompli to go there. Would Kerry have gotten that done? I doubt that would have, but it's all hypothetical hindsight, and it doesn't matter what he says now...

BTW, Kerry knows the French well enough to know that money will buy participation. If he opens up contracts and gives them lots of money, they will show up in Iraq. He will manage that process if he wins.

Posted by: John K at September 3, 2004 01:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It seems to me that the main point of contention in this country about involvement in Iraq is between the big picture people and small picture people. Unfortunately too many people in our country have never been involved in anything bigger than themselves. Living a protected secure life in the US has insulated them from the harsh realities most people in this world suffer daily.

Posted by: Shaun Kavanaugh at September 3, 2004 02:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

John K's point is very good: would Kerry have invaded Afghanistan? Would Al Gore?

It's far from clear to me that either would have.

Posted by: Fredrik Nyman at September 3, 2004 03:01 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kerry strikes me as a coward, in most situations, hiding behind bluster and obfuscation. His power comes not from himself, but from supporters who are wrongly inspired and easily confused. He shares nothing, noteable by the number of "I's" in his acceptance speech. He is obsessed with, "When I am president!", and goes on to make bold claims which everyone knows are not made by one man. He refuses to defend past claims, to answer his accusers, as if he is afraid he will let something slip. His "bravery" depends more on other peoples' actions than on his own.

America demands a better leader and our soldiers demand a better commander. We are not worse off than four years ago; but we cannot afford to take a chance, now, with an arrogance that knows no limits.

Posted by: James M at September 3, 2004 05:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The irony of this situation is that everyone seems to have missed the fact that evil Saddam Hussein and his envoys told the whole truth and nothing but the truth when they told the UN and the inspectors that they had no WMDs. A senseless and mindless war and 1000 American and 30,000 Iraqi casualties later we now know that Saddam actually told the truth, he had no WMDs and no links with Al Qaeda and no scientist has come forward with any stories of monstrous evil plans to attack America or even its arch enemy Iran or Israel. On the other hand, Pakistan has a racket to sell nuclear parts on the black market and North Korea openly develops nukes.

Makes you wonder how we made the world or America safer by wasting billions of dollars and manpower we need to find Osama and the people who openly and truly threaten America and even today are training in terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan?

As for our coalition in Iraq, how many of our partners have troops there and in what numbers?
The only reason any of them are there are to get the exclusive contracts in rebuilding Iraq and drilling and selling more oil. War is nothing more than business any more.

Anti American sentiment abroad is so high, Americans are told to no longer let people around them know they are Americans when they visit abroad.

More scientists and intellectuals are up in arms against this administration than any other and lets not even talk about the damage to the environment, the Patriot Act, selection of Supreme Court judges, the list is endless.

On the bright side every dark cloud has a silver lining. Its called your vote. Use it wisely or lose it. :-)

Posted by: Sam S at September 3, 2004 06:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Saddam was/is plain stupid or very clever. He was either lied to by his scientists on Iraq's weapons program OR he deliberately put on a charade to discourage overt US military action.

Ofcourse, I don't think he counted on 9/11 and President Bush's resolve to rid the world of legitimate threats.

The dumbest thing he ever did was engage in a face off with the US by not cooperating fully with the inspectors all these years. But then again I think he desperately wanted to hang onto power and in a pre 9/11 world, a fake WMD threat would've ensured him just that.

Posted by: Justin at September 3, 2004 08:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Anti American sentiment abroad is so high, Americans are told to no longer let people around them know they are Americans when they visit abroad"

Really, that's just bullshit. I just came back from a trip to SE Asia and India. The sentiment of people over there basically comes down to this:

They want America to fight the terrorists but they just don't want their country to get involved.

You see, most people are selfish and if evil doesn't threaten them directly they don't want to confront it. India, Indonesia and even Malaysia and Phillipines to some extent have their own local Al-Qaeda's to contend with on an almost daily basis. Luckily we are not at that stage yet in the US. But that makes some of the dimmest amongst us ask questions like: Oh why do we need to spend our money to install a democracy in the middle east when we could be putting the same into our schools and health programs.

The people who died on 9/11 would've given up their jobs, healthcare plans, education if only they could live!

If Bill Clinton could go back to his years as president and redo some of the things I'm sure he'd take a leaf out of W's foreign policy and gone after the Taliban and Al qaeda networks after the USS Cole bombing.

Does any country/group dare to kill our citizens or attack our military on W's watch? You bet they're thinking mighty hard before they even dream of such a thing...

Posted by: Arron at September 3, 2004 08:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"On the other hand, Pakistan has a racket to sell nuclear parts on the black market and North Korea openly develops nukes."

And we will deal with them. After 10-12 years and some 34 UN resolutions later around 2016 seems about right to you, Oui?

Posted by: Arron at September 3, 2004 08:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

George W. Bush is a bully armed with the arsenal of democracy. Give him four more years and two things are certain: we will have less of an arsenal and less of a Democracy.

Posted by: brendan at September 3, 2004 12:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Its called your vote. Use it wisely or lose it. "

one, I beleive, fair minded reading of this would be that you think that the Republicans want to take away the right to vote. Is that what you think?

As for anti-Americanism abroad. I get overseas quite a bit, mostly to Europe. While I will not deny that it is there, it is not anything like the levels that the left here claims. Look at the Olympics reception for the Americans if you want a hint.

Besides, anybody who thinks that you can easily hide the fact that you are an American, which becomes clear to anybody the moment you open your mouth, even if you are Canadian, is showing their ignorance.

Posted by: Moptop at September 3, 2004 12:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm probably voting for Mr. Kerry, but I despise that insulting phrase "coalition of the coerced and the bribed". When Mr. Kerry is President, he will learn that Tony Blair is a man we can count on for strength and support, whereas Jacques Chirac is not.

Posted by: Arjun at September 3, 2004 01:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It's just a fact that we cut deals over NATO expansion and over large numbers of Yankee Dollars to get THE MAJORITY of states into our "coalition" ... Kerry's remark was a tasteless bit of truth-telling, undiplomatic certainly because this goes on all the time ... but accurate nevertheless.

Remember Turkey ... we offered them a crass, shameless bribe in both money and in selling out the Kurds ...

Posted by: brendan at September 3, 2004 01:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moptop: remember the 50's? remember the Red Scare, the black list etc. Did you listen to Zell Miller? I think we are headed down that same path. Disagreement with the Government is being characterized as treason. That ain't Democracy.

Posted by: brendan at September 3, 2004 01:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think you need to take a deep breath. Think about some anti-depressants maybe. Some counselling. It is only an election.

Posted by: Moptop at September 3, 2004 01:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

James,
Re."Kerry strikes me as a coward", I disagree. I think some of his Vietnam actions illustrate courage - even reckless courage. But I don't see him as a courageous LEADER - he'll go where he thinks people want to follow, but he won't lead them where he thinks they need to go, because he doesn't have a 'vision' of his own of where that is.
I think Clinton was a lot like that, as are most politicians - it's how they get elected. I think Bush WAS like that four years ago. And I think it's a correct-enough approach during times of normalcy. But it fails during times of crisis. Bush was tested and seems to have responded. As far as I can tell Kerry has not. As Senator it was not necessary, but if he's going to be president in these times I need to see some sign of it. It would have been tough for me to vote against Lincoln in 1864 or FDR in 1944, and it will be tough for me to vote against GWB in 2004.

Posted by: Glenmore at September 3, 2004 02:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with B.D.'s premise, so I guess I'm glad Mr. Kerry wasn't U.S. President in March 2003.

However, we're deciding on four more years. It is (I hope) intellectually defensible to vote for Mr. Kerry even while disagreeing with him about a very, very important issue that has, in a sense, already been decided. For example, Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism, is voting for Mr. Kerry, and I've heard rumors that my favorite world leader, Tony Blair, also wouldn't mind a Kerry victory.

Posted by: Arjun at September 3, 2004 02:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I am just glad the Gore-bot or the Flip-flopper were not the democrat in charge of the US in 1941.
Moore would be making movies about how orderly and clean Japanese society is and how the real terrorists are the ones who claim to oppose fascism.
I wonder if he felt the Werewolves were Minutemen as well...
Bush is not afriad to make unpopular but necessary decisions. Wish we here in Canuckistan had leaders with that courage

Posted by: GW Crawford at September 3, 2004 02:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Moptop: yes it is only an election ... but it's an election with a Patriot Act behind us and a Patriot II waiting in the wings ...

Posted by: brendan at September 3, 2004 03:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The most credible and likely interpretation of Kerry's various statements is that he believed (and still believes) that the credible threat of force, combined with effective diplomacy, would have resulted in successful inspections.

Under those circumstances, you could credibly argue that Bush should have pushed for stronger inspections either just prior to or just after 9/11.

I think Kerry's point (assuming I have divined it correctly) has two flaws.

First, France and Russia have always had a strong interest in letting Iraq slide, and a bunch of nations, principally China, have a general interest in preventing US hegemony. Therefore, I'm sceptical that even as supposedly skillful a diplomat as John Kerry could have gotten a much larger coalition behind an actual "inspections or else invasion" resolution.

Second, I'm not sure what Kerry expected to happen from the weapons inspections. As far as I can tell, the best possible case was that the inspectors would report back that Saddam was mostly complying but that they had some evidence of him cheating, that they couldn't find any weapons but that Saddam couldn't account for where the old weapons went, and that it was unlikely that Saddam had massive stockpiles of weapons, but that they couldn't rule out strategic stockpiles or active programs. At that point, the world would have to either (1) let Saddam "out of his box," resulting in massive devastation for the Kurds and an almost certain reboot to his WMD program; (2) decide to keep inspections, sanctions and containment going forever; or (3) invade anyway.

Posted by: J Mann at September 3, 2004 03:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The irony of this situation is that everyone seems to have missed the fact that evil Saddam Hussein and his envoys told the whole truth and nothing but the truth when they told the UN and the inspectors that they had no WMDs."

Right - if we haven't found it by now, it obviously never existed.

Nevrmind that the Chinese are still finding hidden Japanese weapons from WWII. And REALLY never mind that there are over 100 known chemical weapons dump sites IN THE US leftover from WWI (yes, ONE, not two) that WE CAN'T FIND.

Several tons of chemical weapons (enough to kill literally thousands with the right usage - a subway for instance) would fit in the trailer of 1 18-wheeler.

Saying Saddam Hussein had no WMD, when every single intelligence service on the planet thought he did, is silly.

One last bit of logic, not that you care about it: when Saddam Hussein kicked out the UN inspectors in 1998, they had documented certain stores of weapons not yet destroyed. What, did Hussein kick out the inspectors, unilaterally and IN SECRET destroy all his WMDs, and HIDE THE EVIDENCE THAT HE DESTROYED THEM, just bcause he enjoyed sanctions or something?!?

There's plenty more to say about the stuff in the middle, but this is already way too long, so I'll goi on to something shorter.

"More scientists and intellectuals are up in arms against this administration than any other and lets not even talk about the damage to the environment, the Patriot Act, selection of Supreme Court judges, the list is endless."

Ah, yes, "the environment", sweet Gaia, our all-important god. Nevermind the actual evidence that the state of the environment in the US continues to improve... Geex, just invoke "for the children" already, and have done with it.

And the EVIL EVIL PATRIOT act - the one that lets government agents go to PUBLIC PLACES and listen to people. Why in the name of intelligent life everywhere was that ever prohibited?!? Let's blame the whoe thing on Bush, too, nevermind that CONGRESS MAKES THE LAW. And violation of rights using the PATRIOT act - let's see, Jose Pailla, and... uh... that's it. In almost 3 years, 1 guy. Right. Cry me a river.

"selection of Supreme Court judges" OK, just a warning, I'm going to shout now:

BUSH HAS NOT HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO APPOINT A SINGLE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE.

Welcome to reality.

"On the bright side every dark cloud has a silver lining. Its called your vote. Use it wisely or lose it. :-)"

Actually, that's true. Elect enough spineless morons who don't do anything about Islamic terrorism, and eventually, Islamic terrorists will either kill us all or rule over us. (Not that I think that is IMMINENT, mind you, but that is their expliciltly-stated goal, after all.)

Posted by: Deoxy at September 3, 2004 03:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Vote came just before the inspectors went back into Iraq. The inspectors in fact were DESTROYING Saddam's missles -- he had built more scuds that had a modestly enhanced range, reater than what was allowed -- at the time of the invasion. We now know that the inspectors would have determined that Saddam's government no longer had WMDs ... just remnants from 10-year old programs ... Stockpiles?? Bio-Weapons Vans??? HA!

So what then? Maybe we could have tried what Bush I suggested and then cowardly backed away from, inspiring the Iraqis to overthrow the guy? Bush I did this and then did not lift a finger while Saddam cut them down with air-power.

Posted by: brendan at September 3, 2004 03:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Allow me to weigh in on some subjects:

Greg, you pointed to these quotes as an apparent contradiction or flip flop:

"Regrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies."

And, just after:

"Mr. President, do not rush to war."

It's Kerry vs. Kerry again.

I mean, which is it?

I think it was explained above that the first part was not necessarily a call to war, rather a call to approach the UN about a reinvigorated inspections process, with the possible threat of force underlying it. Thus, it makes sense to use that as an example of engaging allies and international bodies and not rushing to war. Not really a contradiction, just a pedantic play on quotes.

Then you asked:

Would Kerry have oh so adeptly avoided all the pitfalls of disbanding the Iraqi Army?

and

Would his de-Baathification effort have been just-so; what Les Gelb calls (in a different context re: his confederation proposal) the 'Goldilocks' approach (not too much, not too little--just right).

Greg, all Kerry would have had to do is listen to the Army War College, the CIA, the experts in the State Department, and just about every other expert voice that were counseling against those moves. It was more than likely that he would have taken that advice. The more outlandish scenario is one in which he abandons that sage advice from the experts in favor of the Chalabi/Office of Special Plans approach. Which of course is what Bush did.

Fredrik said:

John K's point is very good: would Kerry have invaded Afghanistan? Would Al Gore?
It's far from clear to me that either would have.

I think that argument is ridiculous. There is no president in the history of the United States that would not have done that. Hell, there were probably only about 10% of the entire population that opposed that invasion. Repeatedly on the record, both Gore and Kerry were very vocal in their immediate and unwavering support for the invasion (the latter having voted in favor of it). Criticize Kerry and Gore on other grounds. There is plenty of room for intelligent disagreement, but that argument is irrational, mean spirited and a marked departure from the facts.

Glenmore said:

His "bravery" depends more on other peoples' actions than on his own.

Really? The man who went to Vietnam relies on others' bravery, but not the guy who supported the Vietnam war but chose to sit it out? Interesting.

Numerous voices have doubted the rise in anti-Americanism abroad, relying on anecdotal evidence and gut reactions. The empirical evidence is overwhelming though. The fact remains that in poll after poll there is a discernible trend in world opinion, and it is not favorable. As for the reception of US athletes in the Olympics, it was more tepid, and at times hostile, than ever in the history of the games.

Arron said:

"On the other hand, Pakistan has a racket to sell nuclear parts on the black market and North Korea openly develops nukes."

And we will deal with them. After 10-12 years and some 34 UN resolutions later around 2016 seems about right to you, Oui?

The problem with that analogy Arron (aside from the tired French joke), is that those 10-12 years and 34 UN resolutions were extremely effective. If only we had started the process with Pakistan 10-12 years ago and gotten the UN to pass resolutions, sanctions, and mandates for inspections, then maybe Pakistan would have the nuclear capacity of Iraq. Instead Pakistan has been shipping material and technology to such friendly destinations as North Korea, Iran and Libya.

It was said that:

Saying Saddam Hussein had no WMD, when every single intelligence service on the planet thought he did, is silly.

That depends on a few definitions. Some agencies said he had leftover pockets of chem and bio weapons, and even the State Department's intel group (the INR) doubted he had "stockpiles." Furthermore, most groups (especially INR) doubted he had any type of nuclear capacity or meaningful program. Here are some quotes from INR that were in the NIE:

"[t]he activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons."

"Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors."

Here is the IAEA take:

"there was no indication of resumed nuclear activities . . . nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities."

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 3, 2004 04:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

brendan et al,

I am afraid you have been deceived by the war movements most overt lie. The inspections were not working. Indeed, it was impossible that they would have ever worked. The ugly truth is this: IT IS TECHNOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO PERMANENTLY DISARM A NATION STATE AGAINST ITS WILL!"

Destroying existing stockpiles of weapons disarms only temporarily as long as the factories that produce the weapons still exist. The factories will just produce more. Destroying the factories does no good if you still have the scientist, engineers and capital that built it in the first place. The nation will just rebuild it eventually. WMD's aren't discrete items like Sauron's ring in Tolkiens story. Destroying the item themselves cost the ones who made them nothing but time.

The U.N. inspectors were never intended to disarm Saddam against his will. The inspectors were intended only to verify that Saddam had voluntarily destroyed his stockpiles and production facilities and was no longer pursing the creation and productions of the weapons. Once it became clear in the early 90's that Saddam had no intention not attempting to reacquire WMD's, the U.N. inspection regime was rendered nearly completely useless.

The UN inspections and the sanctions regime could have stopped Saddam from creating large scale programs like creating a nuke from scratch or massive amounts of chemical or biological weapons to use in open warfare but they could have never stopped him from building nuke from fissionable acquired out of the country or from producing the dozens of liters of chemical or biological weapons needed for carrying out a terrorist attack.

The Aum Shinrikyo cult produced the nerve gas they used in the Tokyo subway attack in lab inside a 40ft Quonset hut using fewer than a dozen personnel. There is no way that we could ever stop Saddam from creating a similar program if he wanted to.

People opposed to the war want you think of the past. Proponents of the war wanted to evaluate the threat that Saddam posed in the future. Even if he had zero existing weapons, even the small amounts needed for a terrorist attack, at the exact time of the invasion. He would have acquired them at some point in the future.

Posted by: Shannon Love at September 3, 2004 05:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shannon,

If it is that easy to produce small amounts of chemical and biological weapons, why would al-Qaeda need Saddam?

The answer is, of course, they don't. They could produce the small stuff on their own, like the Japanese cult. They could also create a dirty bomb from the fissionable material on the market, emanating from places like Pakistan, Iran and the former Soviet Republics.

They would only need Saddam for large stockpiles or complex nuclear devices. Both of which can be stifled by inspections, sanctions and, if needs be, targeted military strikes.

Don't take it from me though, here is an assessment of the efficacy of inspections and sanctions from the Council on Foreign Relations, hardly an anti-war group, in fact they are the same group that patronizes Walter Russel Mead, the person whose quotes Greg relied on for this post.

http://www.cfr.org/publication.php?id=6966

Unless you are suggesting that anti-war propaganda has infected the largely pro-war folks at the Council on Foreign Relations? Wouldn't that be a coup.

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 3, 2004 06:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shannon: I'll see your claim and raise you an even greater categorical statement: IT IS TECHNOLOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO PERMANENTLY DO ALMOST ANYTHING. Something HAD to be done with the Saddam regime: the problem with Bush's war decision was that it was first of all arrogantly stupid -- I believe Bush is somewhat honest when he paints everything in 1-bit, black and white terms -- that's how he sees the world -- he's taking a procustean bed to reality and just chopping off the parts that don't fit. There were, there HAD to be more choices ... The invasion/occupation was not driven by necessity of dealing with Saddam ... THAT was the lie ... it was driven by a stew of policy fantasies about remaking the Middle East and, frankly, about securing Iraqi oil in the hands of people we could have more faith in. The al-Qaeda connection and the "gathering threat" were pernicious lies and Bush must pay the price for deceiving us into this war.

When Bush asked for the "authority," from Congress, he said he hoped having it would mean we would not have to go to war. I believe that was a second lie: he intended to eliminate Saddam and to realize his "remaking the middle east" fantasy by invading.

Posted by: brendan at September 3, 2004 08:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


If Kerry had invaded Iraq, he would not have allowed the Defense Department to throw away the extensive planning done by the State Department for a postwar Iraq.

The DoD winged it in postwar Iraq - and badly.

Vote for Kerry because a Kerry administration is likely to be workmanlike and competent.

the wesson

Sure, it's inspiring that Bush believes in spreading democracy. But when it comes down to, say, nation building and actually DOING the things that would help bring about a democracy, the level of competence and commitment from the Bush administration is very lackluster.

Posted by: The Wesson at September 3, 2004 08:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Eric Martin,

"If it is that easy to produce small amounts of chemical and biological weapons, why would al-Qaeda need Saddam?"

Al-Qaeda does not need Saddam to produce nerve gas. Given sufficient time and refuge they can do it on their own.

The invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda and was not in anyway under taken as a retaliation for 9/11.

The existence of Al-Quada simply provided one more mechanism by which Saddam could have carried out an attack using WMD's. Had 9/11 been carried out by the Icelandic Liberation Front the case for removing Saddam would have been the same.

What 9/11 changed was our apprehension of the risk of a major attack. Prior to 9/11 we were willing to cross our fingers and hope Saddam did nothing stupid. Post 9/11 we were not.

Posted by: Shannon Love at September 3, 2004 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

brendan,

"The invasion/occupation was not driven by necessity of dealing with Saddam ... THAT was the lie"

It's not a lie, it's a judgment call. Real world decision makers must make such calls all the time.

Given that Saddam could not be involuntarily disarmed the only question became how to remove him. Over a decade of attempts to foster coups and the like had failed. Even if the sanctions regime eventually caused his collapse the human cost and the eventual outcome could have easily been worse than any war.

War gave us the quickest, surest and most humane option to removing the threat. It was the only means of trying to build something better and permanent in the region in order to fulfill our long term goals.

Posted by: Shannon Love at September 3, 2004 11:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Shannon,

That is a pretty honest and well reasoned argument. Ultimately it comes down to a different appraisal of the risks and threats, and reasonable people can disagree. Personally I view al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups as more of a risk so I opposed the invasion of Iraq at the time because I thought there were more pressing threats that were/are being given less than adequate attention, and that the invasion of Iraq would be counterproductive in the war to stop the spread of radical Islamist jihadism.

In fact, I believe that the estimation of the threat by the Bush administration is symptomatic of a flaw in the group's worldview, a leftover from the nation state Cold War paradigm. I don't think they appreciate the abilities and efficacy of transnational groups like al-Qaeda that receive their funding and recruitment from stateless actors and financeers.

Furthermore, in the present context, invading Iraq has greatly aided Bin Laden and his compatriots. It has further radicalized the region, increasing support and public opinion for Bin Laden, and, similarly, made recruitment easier. In my opinion, this increased risk presents more of a threat long term than Saddam.

To quote Francis Fukuyama:

The War on Terror is, in other words, a classic counter-insurgency war, except that it is one being played out on a global scale. There are genuine bad guys out there who are much more bitter ideological enemies than the Soviets ever were, but their success depends on the attitudes of the broader populations around them who can be alternatively supportive, hostile or indifferent-depending on how we play our cards.

My views are also well captured in this article appearing in Foreign Policy:

...if countries are to win the war on terror, they must eradicate enemies without creating new ones. They also need to deny those militants with whom negotiation is impossible the support of local populations. Such support assists and, in the minds of the militants, morally legitimizes their actions. If Western countries are to succeed, they must marry the hard component of military force to the soft component of cultural appeal. There is nothing weak about this approach. As any senior military officer with experience in counterinsurgency warfare will tell you, it makes good sense. The invasion of Iraq, though entirely justifiable from a humanitarian perspective, has made this task more pressing.

Bin Laden is a propagandist, directing his efforts at attracting those Muslims who have hitherto shunned his extremist message. He knows that only through mass participation in his project will he have any chance of success. His worldview is receiving immeasurably more support around the globe than it was two years ago, let alone 15 years ago when he began serious campaigning. The objective of Western countries is to eliminate the threat of terror, or at least to manage it in a way that does not seriously impinge on the daily lives of its citizens. Bin Laden's aim is to radicalize and mobilize. He is closer to achieving his goals than the West is to deterring him.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=2536&page=0

Even using the nation state paradigm, post 9/11, I would have viewed Iran and North Korea as more immediate threats. Both have advanced nuclear programs, with North Korea likely possessing actual weapons. Iran worked with al-Qaeda in the past (Khobar Towers), and has made overtures for future cooperation with al-Qaeda, and is ruled by a radical Islamist/anti-American regime. Neither regime appears particularly stable or worthy of trust. Military action in either of these nations would have been more difficult than Iraq, however. Pakistan also deserves mention for their relationship in funding and training al-Qaeda and Taliban forces, not to mention their penchant for spreading nuclear technology and material to Libya, Iran, North Korea and others.

Posted by: Eric Martin at September 4, 2004 12:38 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists."

That's one of the best lines I've ever heard a politician say in my entire lifetime. And ofcourse it's even better when they follow it up with action instead of mere words.

Posted by: Ramarao at September 4, 2004 03:48 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"A year ago, France was defying America and leading a worldwide coalition against us. Now, after failing to influence the leader of the new EU [European Union] Commission, it is stuck with the transport portfolio in the new EU Commission. So, in a sense, France paid a much higher price for this than Bush did.

They sure did."

- That paragraph is a non-sequitur. It takes a very America-centric view of EU appointments to conclude that France's opposition to America played a role in the recent allotment of posts. Has anybody seen any evidence for that? The French have not paid an adequate price for their stance on the Iraq War. Not even close. We will know that they have when you read commentary in Le Monde or L'Express saying, "we regret attempting to frustrate the Iraq war. We won't do something similar again". And not before.

As to how to get from here to there, does anybody have any suggestions? I go back to the six options outlined in Yes, Minister:

- do nothing
- issue a statement
- lodge a protest
- cut off aid (i.e. British subsidies to French farmers in this case)
- break off diplomatic relations
- declare war.

Maybe there are others.

Posted by: PJ at September 4, 2004 02:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It is interesting that Kerry gets credit for being a more competent leader than Bush. If the election campaign each is conducting is any indication of management ability, Kerry is considerably less competent than President Bush. Why are the SBVT still in the headlines? Why is Kerry running a campaign based on foreign policy when polls show the President has a 20 point edge on this issue? Why has Kerry failed to develop a theme for his campaign? Why has Kerry failed to articulate concrete policies, thereby turning the dialogue to issues that favor him? Why has Kerry responded exaclty incorrectly to every tough criticism by whining about unfairness (which only keeps the issue in the news)? FACT: Kerry's campaign is disorganized, has no demonstrable ability to hit back at Bush effectively, is clearly on the defensisve, and has failed to run on issues favoring the candidate. AND Kerry is viewed as the more competent candidate?

Posted by: Ben at September 4, 2004 08:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The problem of what the message should be has been a major problem since 2001. The Democratic Party is split between "get-out-of-Iraq"-ers and "Iraq was badly handled but not wrong in principle-"voters. Most thought Bush would handle the war well, BECAUSE HE HAD TO ... so the pool of candidates was not that strong ... Governors mostly get the Presidency ... the best we could do was ... HOWARD DEAN ... of Vermont, a man who got into the race to make a point about HEALTH CARE ... and ended up being the anti-war candidate. HA!

When the Iraq occupation began to go badly, possible candidates such as Hilary (who is imagined and who imagines herself to be a strong candidate) thought it was too late. Se we got Kerry, Edwards Lieberman, and Dean ...

Kerry won, but his task as a Democratic leader is daunting. Whatever position he takes on Iraq makes a significant part of his base unhappy ... If he straddles, as he has, maybe he gets by ... but Rove has been too smart for that. I believe Kerry's team believed he could win a data-free, I'm not Bush campaign ... we now know this is not true. He's got to take a position that's more factional ... the occupation must succeed, or the occupation must end ...

He can talk domestic issues till the cows come home, but until he enunciates a more simplistic, factionally pleasing position on Iraq, he will never gain goround that way ...

Posted by: brendan at September 4, 2004 09:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Moptop: yes it is only an election ... but it's an election with a Patriot Act behind us and a Patriot II waiting in the wings ..."

You mean the Patriot act that Kerry voted for?

Posted by: Floyd McWilliams at September 5, 2004 12:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

There are some good and useful things in the patriot act. There are some pernicious tidbits too. Legislators vote for things they only partly favor for all sorts of reasons. It's called compromise. Then perhaps they try to change the parts they don't like through further legislation. Kerry is against various parts of the Patriot Act, and particularly it's the way it has been (oh so secretly) handled by John Ashcroft.

I love veggie pizza but I always remove the disgusting artichokes. That makes me an artichoke flipper, but not a flip-flopper.

Posted by: brendan at September 5, 2004 07:29 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have been thinking about world opinion of the United States.

Some American critics of the Bush Administration imply that anti-Americanism is a recent invention. We are allegedly "less safe" than ever before, because we are "more hated" throughout the world than ever before.

I don't agree with this argument, because al Qaeda declared war against American civilians, and started killing American civilians, before the Bush Administration came to power. Also, I have relatives throughout the world. Some of them are anti-American, and Mr. Bush is not to blame for their anti-Americanism, because they were anti-American during the Reagan, Bush 1, and Clinton Administrations.

I also don't like the assumption that anti-Americanism is always America's fault. For example, the most obvious reason for the recent upsurge in anti-Americanism is the invasion of Iraq. In my view, in this instance, the "whole world" hates us for having done the right thing. I know most Americans now disagree with me on that point. But what about the bombing of Afghanistan? That was unpopular in many parts of the world as well. Does that make it wrong?

On the other hand, I simply don't buy the "neocon" argument that world opinion of the U.S. is completely irrelevant. Hatred for the U.S. facilitates enemy recruitment. Governments find it harder to cooperate with the United States when the United States is unpopular. The natural impulse to give in to terrorists is made easier by the widespread sentiment that the terrorists have a legitimate cause, and this incorrect sentiment is made easier by hatred of the U.S.

I would counsel, at the very least, a change in "style". For example, even when Mr. Rumsfeld is right on the facts, he comes across as an arrogant jerk. I don't blame the U.S. for our disagreements with certain allies (instead I blame those allies), but really, what is to be gained by casually insulting those allies? And even worse, what is to be gained by mistreating even those more steadfast allies (like Tony Blair and John Howard) that actually agree with us?

Unless I am convinced that the Bush Administration has learned its lessons, and (sorry, Mr. Cheney) will wage a "more sensitive war on terror", I will vote for Mr. Kerry.

Posted by: Arjun at September 5, 2004 07:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On the other hand (here I go flip-flopping again!) I am concerned about Mr. Kerry's stance towards those steadfast allies, Tony Blair and John Howard. (I love Tony Blair, and I've noticed with dismay that most of Mr. Kerry's supporters hate Tony Blair.)

Support for the U.S. ought not to be punished, and failure to support the U.S. ought not to be rewarded. That would be like the world turned upside down.

Posted by: Arjun at September 5, 2004 07:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, the other shoe has dropped. Kerry today said that the Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. He said he believed he would be able to get troops out of Iraq in his first term. The discussion apparently was mostly about the economy & health care, but he was asked questions about Iraq.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=615&e=2&u=/nm/20040906/pl_nm/campaign_kerry_dc

Posted by: brendan at September 6, 2004 07:57 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm now firmly in the Kerry camp, after worrying over Sebastian Mallaby's warnings in the Washington Monthly and the Washington Post about the federal budget deficit. I seem to agree with Sebastian Mallaby about nearly everything, so when he argues that the Bush Administration won't reduce the federal budget deficit, I believe him. I want to see a stronger U.S. military, but in the long term that requires a stronger U.S. economy, which in turn requires better fiscal discipline than we've seen from this Congress and this Administration.

Also, I hated Zell Miller's vicious slanders of the Democrats and of Mr. Kerry. Contrary to Mr. Miller's statements, the Democrats do want to win the war on al Qaeda terrorism, and Mr. Kerry will not give "Paris" a veto over American national security.

OK. Now that I've established my pro-Kerry, anti-Miller stance, I'd like to partially defend Mr. Miller against Slate's Fred Kaplan and others.

Fred Kaplan claims that Senator Kerry only voted against various weapons systems in the 1990's after the Mr. Cheney asked Congress for those budget cuts.

Fine. However, in 1984, during Mr. Kerry's first campaign for the U.S. Senate, then-Lieutenant Governor Kerry made some highly irresponsible statements criticizing the Reagan Administration's increases in military spending. Please see today's Weekly Standard for details.

It's repulsive to attack Mr. Kerry's personal heroism during his service in Vietnam by handing out band-aids at the Republican convention. It's offensive to claim that as U.S. President, Mr. Kerry won't defend the U.S. without permission from Paris. But it's entirely appropriate to attack Mr. Kerry for his opposition to increased U.S. military spending during the 1980's.

Posted by: Arjun at September 6, 2004 09:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here's an interesting site called "Operation Truth" with first-hand accounts, letters, etc. from U.S. Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

http://optruth.com/main.cfm?actionId=globalShowStaticContent&screenKey=hear&htmlId=1038

Posted by: brendan at September 7, 2004 12:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arjun,

I wholeheartedly agree that anti-Americanism predates Bush, and probably goes as far back as George Washington (especially around Belgravia Square). I also agree that American policies is not to blame for most anti-Americanism.

Still, there are policies and administrations that increase anti-Americanism, and Iraq and the Bush team, respectively, have done that. You are right to note the arrogance displyed in the "diplomatic" process which has engendered more hostility, suspicion and ill will than necessary - to seemingly no end other than to express an underlying contempt for multilateralism.

Regarding the invasion of Iraq, many around the world would have been fine with Saddam Hussein's deposal had it not come in such a violent manner, and with the inextricable realities of war - especially an elective war.

As for Afghanistan, that was not nearly as unpopular because there was clear justification - the attacks of September 11. With Iraq, there were a number of justifications circulated but none have been borne out by the facts. This has led to suspicion as to motives (with the omnipresent spector of oil looming), and a heightened focus on the loss of life (20,000 Iraqi civilians) and whether that sacrifice was necessary. Throw in Abu Ghraib and legal memos justifying circumvention of the Geneva conventions and authorizing the use of torture, and it is easy to see why Osama is so pleased with the turn of events.

Remember, he is trying to win a PR war with reformers and moderates and western leaning thinkers. By striking the Cole and the Towers, he hoped to provoke a heavy handed response so that the rest of the Muslim world would be galvanized behind his propaganda and vision in opposition to the agents of America. When the US toppled the Taliban, he expected regional uprisings in the Muslim world. He was frustrated by the lack of outrage, but then Bush invaded Iraq before the dust had even settled in Afghanistan. Now Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a safe haven once again, and his popularity is surging while America's is plummeting.

Bush has helped him in ways he could not have imagined.

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