May 12, 2005

Bush in (Early) Autumn

The Past as Prologue

There have been some whispers that encroachments of early lame duckdom are impacting George Bush. Witness problems getting traction for his preferred vision of social security reform, for instance. I don't buy much of this premature lame duck talk; and it bears mentioning that Bush still has well over three years in office left. That said, it might be said that we are now beginning to pass through the early autumn of Bush's Presidency. It has been a tumultous near five years, and a quick look at his foreign policy performance to date is probably not unwarranted at this juncture.

Bush, of course, came into office after a hugely contentious 2000 election. He ran competently--if not in awe-inspiring fashion--but well enough to prevail in the electoral college. He was helped, not least, by what a poor figure Al Gore cut as a candidate. Despite presiding over a rosy (if tottering) economic expansion--Gore dropped the ball because of a combination of huffy arrogance, a transparent sense of entitlement (a too ambitious one, in contrast to Bush's fraternity-like insouciance which came off more populist), a strong dose of wonky dorkiness and, finally, a sense that he wasn't too comfortable in his own skin. Enough voters instinctively felt this, very unfortunately for him, as otherwise he would have likely been a shoo-in. The electorate vote their pockets-books, after all, and there was much easy money and good economic cheer amidst the Clintonian fin de siecle froth and revelry. The debacle for the Democrat party only turned worse in the weeks after the election. Gore's disavowal of his initial concession on election night, coupled with his aggressive preemptive legal posturing in Florida, further bloodied the battered party.

Still, the sad spectacle of election workers attempting to gauge the intent of voters by peering at, as in some gruesome parody, hanging and dimpled chads left Bush a weakened figure. He inherited a divided nation, and expectations for his Presidency, it is probably fair to say, were rather on the low side. B.D. supported Bush, despite concerns that there was too much faux machismo in the air about not "doing kindergartens" (the Bushies showed an early aversion to nation building) mostly because the Clinton-Gore foreign policy had been marked by real amateurishness, episodic attention to varied crises, and even occasional recklessness. Yes, there were some notable exceptions, like Richard Holbrooke's bravura performance at Dayton, but they were too far and few between. After all, who will remember Warren Christopher or Madeline Albright (gender path-breaking aside) fifty years hence? "Cojones" and the "problem from hell"? Thin gruel, indeed.

Another reason I supported Bush was because military morale was gutter low during the Clinton years. Indeed, my military contacts relayed that most enlisted personnel were desparately hoping adults would return to the helm at the Pentagon. Bill Cohen was competent, but putting it plainly, POTUS didn't really give two damns about the military. The thinly veiled hostility to things military was evident from the get-go among a wide swath of Clintonites (recall the emblematic tale of a young White House employee, circa '93, disparaging a uniformed member of the services for having the temerity to walk around the West Wing in uniform). And, whatever your stance on gays in the military, was it the first major military-related issue that merited being broached head-on; rather than, say, a major post-cold war re-appraisal of the military's modernization needs? Well no, of course not.

But I digress. Bush won, happily for me, and appointed Colin Powell Secretary of State and Don Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense. Truth be told, and rather suprisingly given all the vitriole I've heaved at Rummy, I was pleased by both picks. Rumsfeld's experience was vast, he had served in both the public and private sectors with great distinction, and having a Secretary of Defense who had held the very same post some three decades before struck me as providing the requisite confidence that real experience was being brought to the helm. This was only reinforced by having Dick Cheney as Veep, given that he had ably served as Bush 41's SecDef and was keenly interested in the military. As for Powell, I was delighted that he would man the State Department after the depressing tenures of Warren Christopher and Madeline Albright. Foggy Bottom was in dire need of a morale boost, and this American hero was just the man to deliver it. His individual story was inspiring, rising from the South Bronx to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and he had the political heft to defend the building's interests on the Hill, at the White House, and indeed through all the key Washington ports of call.

Truth be told, one doesn't necessarily recollect the early days of Bush's foreign policy pre-9/11 particularly well. There was the awkwardness with China over the downed plane in Hainan--which Armitage and Powell handled with aplomb. But the episode seems pulled out of yester-year given all that has transpired since. Critics have later made a big deal of missed opportunities re: al Qaeda; but the reality is pretty clear: from Carter, to Reagan, to Bush I, to Clinton--no one took the threat of terrorism seriously enough. Carter presided over the Teheran hostage taking fiasco, responding in depressingly meek fashion which, of course, did not go unnoticed around the globe. Reagan pulled us out of Lebanon after the Marine barracks bombing--but at least he was going about the business of robustly expediting the demise of the Soviet Union (then a greater peril than terror). Bush I never really focused too much on transnational terror threats; pre-occupied with managing the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the re-unification of Germany. True too, al-Qaeda had not really begun full-blown, routine terror operations until Clinton came to power. I will not re-appraise Clinton's record on al-Qaeda in any detail here. Suffice it to say, in my sober view, he was pretty much asleep at the switch. Richard Clarke's protestations and pin-prick cruise missile attacks, hither-dither, aside. It was not a record he should be proud of. I doubt, when he is alone and honest with himself (if he is so capable), that he is either.

So the terrorist threat gathered through these decades, Bush beat Gore, Hainan came and went, Rummy was going to modernize the military, and then...and then the morning that changed everything.

What Bush Has Accomplished Since 9/11

Within a week after the WTC was felled, Bush had enunciated a new and broad strategic doctrine. We were, he announced, 1) in a global conflict with terrorists, those who would pursue their political grievances through the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents, and 2) so importantly, he cautioned that states that harbored terrorists would be held as accountable and culpable as the terrorists themselves. There was nothing inevitable or so obviously intuitive regarding either prong above. I believe a Gore Administration, quite likely, would have considered the 9/11 attacks a matter to be pursued via judicial means. A criminal act (however horrific) had occured, the reasoning may well have gone, the perpetrators would need to be caught and brought to justice. There would have been debates about getting U.N. authorization to go into Afghanistan, perhaps, and the ultimatums to the Taliban would likely have been less demanding, and so on. But let's say, in fairness, perhaps not. Perhaps given the scale of the tragedy, Gore would have sprung into action and declared war on al-Qaeda. All out, full-blown war. Let's go ahead and assume so, shall we?

While I doubt this even, what I can certainly doubt unequivocally is that Gore would have adopted the second prong of the Bush Doctrine dealing with states that harbor terrorists. And therein Bush's first accomplishment. By not only declaring war on al-Qaeda, but also putting all states that have had ties to terrorist groups on notice that their previous routine behavior was now unacceptable, Bush was signaling that a more fundamental re-adjustment of the international system was in the works. He was saying loudly and clearly: something epoch-making occurred when those Towers came down. The world has changed. The status quo is no longer acceptable. Change is the order of the day. There are new rules. Civilized societies will no longer tolerate regimes that aid and abet the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents with purpose and intent. No, not wild Robespierrian excesses, necessarily. Not unbridled freedom is on the march! But a new measuring stick, tempered by realpolitik (see Uzbekistan, Russia, Pakistan etc). States must cut ties to terror, aid the international community in prosecuting terror to the fullest, and liberalize their societies. This last, one might say, is the third prong (and most neo-Wilsonian one) of the Bush doctrine. In fairness, it should be mentioned, it rose to the fore after no WMD turned up in Iraq. But more on that below.

But Bush was not just busy enunciating a powerful new doctrine within a week of the worst surprise attack in United States history. Within days of 9/11, the Pentagon, State Department and CIA were coordinating how best to ensure Northern Alliance cooperation against the Taliban. Special forces were inserted in theater. By October, the Taliban had been joined in battle. By November, they were being routed. These were not easy tasks. They were not foreordained by the sheer might of the American imperium (the British and Soviets had floundered here). Indeed, by the beginning of 2002, Bush had already denied al-Qaeda their key state sanctuary. They were on the run. No, UBL was and isn't in custody. But he can only be providing spiritual, and not strategic, support to his varied followers today. Make no mistake, he is under immense pressure. And, more likely than not, he will be apprehended or killed soon enough.

Let's pause here for a second and make an assumption. Let's say, despite B.D.'s take, that Gore would have done all this. He would have enunciated a robust post 9/11 doctrine, he would have (mostly) quashed the Taliban, hell, he would even have caught Osama himself in the mountains of Tora Bora. But one thing that we can all agree on, Democrats and Republicans alike, is that Al Gore would not have gone into Iraq. Ah you say, damn straight! And how better off we'd all be. We would have 1,600 more of our country-men still with us; 15,000 or so unmaimed; seemingly countless Iraqis not killed in collateral damage and daily suicide bombings; none of the painful transatlantic discord of the past years; US $ 200BB and counting still in the Treasury, and so on. How better off we'd be!

Except that we wouldn't be. To appreciate this, we must recall the second (and nascent third) prong of the Bush doctrine. Saddam may not have had collaborative, operational links with al-Qaeda; but he had clearly harbored terrorists in Baghdad in the past. He had also provided funds to the families of suicide bombers in the Occupied Territories. While this was a cheap propaganda ploy, it showed that Saddam didn't care a whit about the life of innocents. He was happy to massacre Kurds in the 'Kurdish Hiroshima' of Halabja to 'Arabize' Kurdistan, he was happy to lob Scuds into Saudi and Israel, he was happy to send funds to those would send their children to blow up other people's children. Unlike Kim Jong II or the Iranian Mullahs, Saddam had started two wars and massacred perhaps hundreds of thousands of his own people. He was a unique danger, a sadistic strategic blunderer perched in the middle of one of the most volatile regions in the world. To not have gone after him in a post 9/11 world, after he refused to bow to the will of extant U.N. resolutions, would have been to give the lie to the seriousness of America's intent in a new and dangerous era. In an era marked by the perils of the intersections between WMD, transnational terror groups, and rogue states--the burden was on Saddam to come clean, to cooperate, to turn a page. He and his regime remained obfuscatory, uncooperative, unrepentant. Inaction in the face of this would have been an abdication of the seriousness of purpose our national security needs demanded in a post 9/11 world.

So my point is that Bush's conviction and strength of character to go through with the Iraq war put the truth to his doctrine. America would not just prosecute terrorists; but terror-supporting regimes too. And by picking Iraq, perched centrally in the middle of the critical Middle East, Bush has sent the entire region into a period of great flux and opportunity (and, admitedly, danger too). As I mentioned earlier, that lack of WMD forced a revisionistic lifting of democratization to the top of the Bush agenda. But this mantra, which sounds Dantonesque to some Burkeans, or bullheaded dumb Texan to assorted lefties scared of Chimperor's antics, actually makes realist sense. Terrorist states, failed states, authoritarian states--they are often unstable in the extreme. And this instability breeds extremism. Which in turn leads to terrorism. Imagine the pent up frustrations of a young, secular Lebanese fellow living under the Syrian yoke as that country's intelligence services massacred various local political leaders one after the other? Imagine the frustations on the street, decade after decade, of the Pharoah-phenomenon of perma-leaders in Egypt? Imagine the anticipation resulting in at least having the prospects of reform there? And does anyone doubt the students in Iran, with thousands and thousands of American troops on their East and West (Afghanistan and Iraq) were not emboldened to take to the streets because of these interventions in their immediate neighorhood? Can anyone deny that the spectacle of millions of Iraqis, braving the fanatical scourge of car bombs, coming out en masse to vote--can anyone deny this has not inspired, fascinated, made curious the millions tuning into al-Arabiya or al-Jazeera?

Yes, with all great opportunities lies great danger too. The U.S. has pushed aside it's so-called "democracy exception" policy in the Middle East. It had previously existed for a reason. Not least, stability. Now there is not as much cuddle cuddle with the Hafezes (or Bashars) and Hosnis and, yes, Saddams. We have begun to toss our lot with the lot of reformers now, although sanely and without foolhardiness, so as to be pragmatic and manage this democratization process in conjunction with the Abdullahs and Mubaraks still. But the die has been cast; great changes are in the air; and none of them would have occurred to this extent if Bush had, not only gone into Iraq; but stayed the course for two years now standing shoulder to shoulder with Iraqis still hoping to live in a viable, unitary pluralistic state with democratic trappings.

The wishes of these Iraqis are the wishes of many Egyptians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Lebanese. And, to date, we are keeping our trust with them. The road has been hard and bloody, massive blunders have been committed, we have often been dismayed and consumed by worry these past five years. But at the autumn of Bush's Presidency, the world moves generally in positive direction. Haphazardly, and with cruel reversals, but great times and events are marked by peril and flux in abundance. Now is a time for resoluteness and steadfastness in Iraq and the wider region. This is our best chance of moving this region into modernity, with polities influenced by Enlightenment values, so that the lure of radicalism can fade as people are provided political breathing space and the nascent fruits of liberty. Will this be Bush's legacy? Will a New Middle East arise 10, 20 years hence? We don't know yet. But now in early autumn, it may still. And that alone is no mean accomplishment.

Posted by Gregory at May 12, 2005 01:40 AM | TrackBack (32)
Comments

In re Clinton: "real amateurishness, episodic attention to varied crises, and even occasional recklessness."

Instead, we got amateurishness taken to undreamed-of heights (Bremer anyone?), fervid attachment to things untethered in reality (Cuban bioweapons? And will the Pentagon's missile defense boondoggle ever hit anything in our lifetime? Our children's? Should any president bet Seattle on it?), and recklessness as standard operating procedure. Three more years of this clown show, and not a minute more.

Posted by: Doug at May 12, 2005 06:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually Greg I think whilst perhaps a little too rosy a take on things for more liking you've hit the nail on the head pretty well in some respects. Whether you like Bush or Not (and I detest the man), You comments about a re-adjustment of the International System is bang on. Its not necessarily a change - but it is very much an adjustment and one you quite rightly point out has been brewing for a while.

While I fundamentally disagree with the more obvious Bush Administration policies (being too far away and too ill-informed to admit to an solid indepth knowledge) in one respect Bush is half right. While we still very much need to keep a very wary eye on international conflict, we (western nations) also need to figure out how to deal with transnational ideological conflict which is a somewhat new phenomenon (and contrast that against the article I sent you), and a new player in the old conflict between the great powers of the past half a millenia.

I think Bushco have picked some of their battles badly - but one thing you are right in, is that this needs to be addressed and resolved now - via dialogue or conflict, and a failure to tackle this head on would be a disaster. I also tend to believe you're right that the Democratic approach (even though I'd vastly prefer to see them running the world's most powerful nation), would address this problem too obliquely...

Bush's head on approach may be too far the other way, but I guess time will tell on that one.

Posted by: Aran Brown at May 12, 2005 07:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to take issue with your characterization of Clinton's response to the threat of terrorism. Clinton made terrorism a priority --- it was discussed a couple of times a week during NSC meetings (it came up in Bush's NSC meetings only a handful of times prior to 9-11.) When there were clear warnings of terrorist attacks on "the Homeland" during the Millenium, Clinton focussed the intelligence and law enforcement bureaucracies on preventing those attacks, and did so successfully (contrasting with Bush's laissez faire approach to terrorism --- even when he recieved unambiguous warnings that a domestic terrorist attack was imminent, he did not spring into action, and the threat remained a low priority at his NSC meetings. )

The bottom line is that Clinton was engaged in the issue of terrorism, while Bush simply delegated responsibily for dealing with the terrorist threat and pretty much ignored it, expecting it to be handled by his subordinates. Bureaucracies respond to the priorities of those at the top -- and Star Wars and tax cuts were the priorities for Bush prior to 9-11.

Clinton's "failure" was the failure to do what was impossible prior to 9-11, i.e., act far more agressively in the international realm to shut down al Qaeda. (And lets not forget that the Clinton regime was ready to take agressive military action against the al Qaeda sanctuaries in Afghanistan --- but that the plan fell apart when Musharraf overthrew the government of Pakistan which had agreed to allow US troops to use the Pakistani border areas as a base of operations.)

Indeed, it was because of the enormous international good will that Clinton created for the USA that Bush was able to initially respond to 9-11 in the manner that he did. Thanks to Clinton, the US received an unprecedented level of co-operation from the rest of the world in the wake of 9-11 ---- and because of Bush's foreign policy blunders, it is unlikely that the US would recieve the same level of co-operation if there was another such attack.


Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 12, 2005 12:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The system is changing, but this was not unknown when the Bush group took office. Nor were the ways to tackle it unknown. Alas, their mania to do the opposite of whatever their predecessors had been doing has proved costly.

See here:

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20010701faessay4993/william-f-wechsler/follow-the-money.html

and more generally here:

http://www.google.de/search?hl=de&ie=ISO-8859-1&q=wechsler+%22transnational+threats%22&meta=

for just one area.

Is the Snow team doing the job in this area?

Posted by: Doug at May 12, 2005 12:41 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great post. I've not always agreed with you in the past, e.g., I've especially felt you were too hard on Rumsfeld, but the way you've summarized the events of the past 5 years agrees with my interpretation of the events. Thanks for taking the time to put them in writing.

Posted by: Marlin at May 12, 2005 02:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To say Clinton was asleep at the switch is just ridiculous. Did you read the 9-11 report? In hindsight, you can say that he should've been more aggressive, but there is no way you can say he ignored terrorism. Did Gore or Bush ever talk about terrorism on the campaign trail? Hardly. Did Republican lawmakers make a big deal about terrorism. No, in fact they claimed Clinton was wagging the dog when he did take action. It's abundantly clear that terrorism was, in fact, a top priority for the Clinton administration. The evidence in no way supports your assertion.

Posted by: Neal at May 12, 2005 03:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You don't get credit for making something a top priority if you don't accomplish anything. There is a clear paper trail, a record of meetings, and abundant documentation of concern by President Clinton and his officials with respect to al Qaeda. It doesn't mean anything. George McClellan spent a lot of time worrying about the Army of Northern Virginia too, you know.

Posted by: JEB at May 12, 2005 04:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Lukasiak: I have argued (trackback to this post) the exact opposite; that Bush had to rebuild American credibility after Clinton spent the pre-existing stock thereof. Actually, this does not contradict your point; it just moves the focus to how the U.S. is perceived by potential enemies, rather than by putative allies.

The steps you believe would make foreign support easier to obtain in the wake of a terrorist attack are precisely those steps I believe will make such attacks more likely.

Posted by: sammler at May 12, 2005 05:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Given the lack of WMD's, it becomes damned difficult to explain why we invaded Iraq and not Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Egypt, and others. All of these are tyrranical regimes which support terrorism and ignore the UN whenever they don't like what it says. Saddam was far more honest and humane than Kim Jong Il, supported terrorism less than Abdullah, and was not an Islamic extremist like the Sauds or the kooks in Iran.

Greg's arguments for invading Iraq managed to highlight the least important aspects while ignoring the obvious. Iraq is less safe than before (100 deaths from bombs in the past 24 hours), we have lost 1600 men, and we have managed to piss off most of our formerly close allies. Thanks, George.

Posted by: Joel at May 12, 2005 05:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Very well said, Greg.

It's amazing the different world that your lefty commenters live in. There really is no point in the two sides talking considering the different realms of reality that exist for the two sides.

Re: Clinton - he was asleep at the wheel regarding terrorism, but we have to cut him some slack, I think the whole country was asleep at the wheel and a Republican president would have resorted to cruise missile lobs the same as Clinton did, pre 9/11.

Posted by: Mark at May 12, 2005 07:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Unlike Kim Jong II or the Iranian Mullahs, Saddam had started two wars and massacred perhaps hundreds of thousands of his own people.

Unlike Saddam, Kim Jong Il and the Iranian Mullahs were a lot closer to building nukes. Which is not surprising, since they had, unlike Saddam, their own nuclear power plants. In my mind, that trumps everything (nevermind that Kim Jong Il acts like a total nutcase and starves his own people), but I guess everyone has their own priorities.

Posted by: fling93 at May 12, 2005 07:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So what exactly are the options you think are available to us vis a vis North Korea or Iran?

Posted by: Cutler at May 12, 2005 09:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I mean, say 2 years ago.

Iran is 3 times the size of Iraq, it is not nearly so diplomatically vulnerable.

Every force that fought against pressure on Iraq would have fought harder against Iran.

North Korea, there is no military option that won't result in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands to a million deaths. And no, nuclear weapons are not a negotiation tool, they want them.

Posted by: Cutler at May 12, 2005 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sammler...

Actually for most people who live outside the US in most Western nations Bush in considered to be the worst president in the last 20 years or more. This attitude is changing a little, as the winds of change blowing in the middle east have very partially proven Bush to be right on some things.

That said there is still a great dela of ill will agains the US. And certainly 18 months ago it was a lot stronger - witness the massive Anti War demonstrations in Europe, the UK and Australia. Witness the Prime Minister of NZ saying the Iraq invasion would wrong and would not have happened under Gore...

In my humble opinion the Iraq invasion was a big mistake. Saddam was already well contained, and as has been rightly pointed out - the bigger threats both from a transnational perspective (Iran's support of Terrorism) and from an International perspective are Iran and North Korea. With the US Military Mired in the quagmire of Iraq, I somehow doubt that if a genuine need for a military response arose in either nation the US will be unable to adequately respond - which places her in a weak position at the moment. All to remove a threat that was never really a threat...

Posted by: Aran Brown at May 12, 2005 10:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So what exactly are the options you think are available to us vis a vis North Korea or Iran?

All the options we have now, plus the leverage of a much more credible military threat. Hopefully, if you can play your cards right, and you won't have to use it (for the reasons outlined by others), but at least it would be there as a last resort.

Now, we've got nothing.

Posted by: fling93 at May 12, 2005 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

plus the leverage of a much more credible military threat.

Iraq has demonstrated that the US is not a substantial military threat ---- it can take territory, but it can't keep it. If anything, it looks like Iran is spoiling for a "fight" because it knows that any attack on Iran by the US would result in a serious uprising in the Islamic world --- especially in Shiite Iraq, where over 100,000 American soldiers would be placed in extreme risk.

Keep in mind that for Iran, standing up to "the Great Satan" is a religious duty --- and being martyred in a conflict with "the Great Satan" is a guarantee of honor in the afterlife. The Ayatollahs are not like Saddam Hussein, who was willing to pay any price to maintain his personal power----and the people of Iran are even less likely to tolerate a US occupation than the Iraqis are.

Does the US really want to exacerbate the perception that it is involved in a religious war against Islam? Because that is precisely how a war with Iran would be perceived at this point....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 12, 2005 11:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

How could anyone consider Saddam well-contained given that sanctions weren't likely to be around much longer...

Posted by: John at May 12, 2005 11:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Quite simple John,

In the wash up of things now what evidence has emerged that Saddam had WMD, could use them, and had any intent to use them...

Precisely none. That fits my definition of contained...

Posted by: Aran Brown at May 12, 2005 11:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aran, you would have little proof of that, and plenty of indication to the contrary, if we hadn't gone into Iraq. Saddam was thumbing his nose at both the UN and the US, and the sanctions were falling apart, in fact being made a mockery. Re-read BD's article.

Posted by: Mark at May 13, 2005 12:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukusiak: Iraq has demonstrated that the US is not a substantial military threat ---- it can take territory, but it can't keep it.

And of course, Iran would not have known this without the invasion of Iraq. And there also wouldn't have been a perception that we were at war with Islam either. And our credibility on WMDs wouldn't have been damaged.

Mark: Saddam was thumbing his nose at both the UN and the US, and the sanctions were falling apart, in fact being made a mockery.

The Duelfer report showed us that the sanctions worked well enough in keeping WMDs out of Saddam's hands that he wasn't trying to work around them as much as trying to get them lifted. And remember that there were also weapons inspectors in Iraq who were monitoring Saddam's destruction of missiles right up to the point that Bush had them pulled out so we could invade.

So there wasn't any urgency. We could and should have left Iraq on the back burner while deciding how to deal with higher priority threats. Had weapons inspectors found anything, or had Saddam been able to get the sanctions lifted, then we could have reevaluated Iraq's threat priority.

Posted by: fling93 at May 13, 2005 12:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"clearly harbored terrorists in Baghdad in the past"

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4535661.stm

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/06/10/wirq210.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/06/10/ixworld.htm

Snort. Found any wmd's yet? Or links to AQ ?

l

Posted by: kb at May 13, 2005 12:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

we are well into lame duckness...we only have a bankruptcy bill - doesn't apply to UAL pension plan - and the Schiavo bill (special session) and she's dead...

Posted by: Stan at May 13, 2005 01:19 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

anti-american riots in afghanistan...and a federal government larger than anything in the history of the human race...

Posted by: Stan at May 13, 2005 01:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A thoughtful and judicious examination of recent history. I am struck by those who spout "no WMD's". Do we want a president who having been assured by the CIA that Saddam does have WMD, decides that his experience as a state governor tells him that the CIA, NSC, MI-5, the French, the Germans, and the Russians are all wrong and that his extensive experience in Austin overrides the viewpoints of every intelligence service in the world?

Posted by: Beaufort at May 13, 2005 02:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Regarding Iraq:

Saddam had the totally mad idea that he could conquer the gulf region and become the head of a superpower. The sanctions regime was falling apart (thanks in part to the efforts of France), and would have been gone entirely in another few years or so. That would have left Saddam free to rebuild his military and restart his WMD programs.

Eventually we would have been faced with Iraq invading another country, like it previously invaded Kuwait. The difference is that it would have had nuclear weapons, and in that case do you think we could have launched a counter-attack, like we did in '91?

It was much better that Bush decided to go ahead and remove Saddam from power. Alas, if only the administration had not completely bungled the planning for the occupation.


Posted by: Les Brunswick at May 13, 2005 04:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

So Doug, is it your position that we must not develop any new technology unless it works perfectly the first time? Thank goodness the Wright Brothers (and the folks at the Manhattan Project) didn't share this attitude!

Posted by: Kirk Parker at May 13, 2005 08:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Really a fantastic summary.
I still think your idea of Bush blunders is weak. By what measures are their blunders? By Americans killed? Iraqis killed? Months before a first election?

And where is the evidence that an alternative policy could have produced an Iraqi election sooner, or with fewer killed?

I think the hindsight evidence that FDR made a one-year too soon D-Day attack is stronger. He could have waited, and continued supporting our 'bastard' Stalin and Joe's fight on the Eastern Front, until Russia overtook all of Germany or faced the Bulge fighters... yada yada.

Point -- what other alternatives are compared? You did great, here. Thanks.

Posted by: Tom Grey at May 13, 2005 11:43 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Do we want a president who having been assured by the CIA that Saddam does have WMD, decides that his experience as a state governor tells him that the CIA, NSC, MI-5, the French, the Germans, and the Russians are all wrong and that his extensive experience in Austin overrides the viewpoints of every intelligence service in the world?

What we want is a president who, when confronted with the evidence that everything that the CIA has told them is wrong, will demand a thorough re-evaluation of the intelligence before going to war.

THat is really the heart of the issue. The intelligence estimates concluding that Saddam had WMDs were sufficient to demand inspections. But those inspections proved that the estimates and conclusions were completely unreliable --- and Bush and everyone else knew it well before we invaded Iraq.


Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 13, 2005 11:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm still waiting for Bush to apologize to Hans Blix.

Posted by: Joel at May 13, 2005 03:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

...wonderfully written apologia. i especially like the way you convert necessities into virtues, e.g., the liberation of the iraqi people from their loathsome master instead of the non-existent wmds. heck, you almost make young george and his administration seem less than duplicitous…

Posted by: doc at May 13, 2005 03:43 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And where is the evidence that an alternative policy could have produced an Iraqi election sooner, or with fewer killed?

Certainly elections could have been held MUCH sooner --- almost immediately after the invasion, people were talking about elections, using the food rations registrations as the voting rolls. Bushco didn't want elections right away, and decided that elections could only be held after an exhaustive national census.....

Of course, the census was never done, and when elections were finally held, the electoral roll were based (you guessed it) on the food ration card system......

as for the question of "fewer killed".... well, if we beleive right-wing propaganda that the elections represent new hope for the Iraqi people, isolated the insurgents, blah, blah, blah, we must then assume that delayed elections meant a delay in the isolation of the isurgency.....

I personally don't buy it, but that's what right wing propaganda would have you believe.

Now, its possible that better planning and decision making could have made a difference in Iraq. The problem is that people who have the knowledge and experience to have planned better and made better decisions would never have planned or decided to invade Iraq in the first place. In other words, stupid occupation planning was inevitable, because only stupid people would have invaded Iraq in the first place.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 13, 2005 05:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sadly, there are those who believe that leaving the Moustasche in place was a sign of great wisdom and intelligence. That we did not will, in the long run, redound to our great benefit, as Greg suspects in his piece.

Many leftist commentators point out that Saddam was contained by sanctions. That was, unfortunately, turning out not to be the case (I know, you're going to hyperlink the Condi and Powell quotes from early 2001, I'm way ahead of you...). Unfortunately, by that Summer, Powell was already in retreat to something called "smart sanctions", which was basically a surrender to the French, the Germans, and the Russians, as well as the Chinese. Those four powers had an interest in trade with the Saddam regime.

As the Deulfer report makes clear, it would have been simply a question of time before Saddam produced a relatively simply, but missile portable, nuclear device. The technology is relatively simple if you can buy the metallurgists, the engineers, and the equipment.

Saddam had the oil to pay for it.

The Left ignores this eventuality because it despises George W. Bush much more than it will ever hate Saddam Hussein or Usama al-bin Laden. It took me some time to figure this out, but I should have guessed it earlier.

See, Hussein, bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, al-Zarqawi- well, those fine upstanding citizens are mere abstractions to the mind of your average lefty. He can't bring himself to hate a head chopper like al-Zarqawi (Kos can say "screw them" about dead American contractors, however). But GW Bush is a known quantity to the left, the person they see on the nightly news every evening, the person they hate.

Don't you people understand? The Left doesn't care if Saddam ended up with nuclear weapons. They hate Bush because he was bold enough for doing what they would have been afraid to do in the first place. And Saddam WOULD have ended up with nuclear weapons. If left alone long enough, with enough resources and time, there is no way he would have passed up the opportunity to be Big Man On Campus.

This is the key to understanding the left's weakness during the war on terror: they hate Bush, but they cannot hate the Islamic Fascists.

Posted by: Section9 at May 13, 2005 11:33 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

p.lukasiak--

And because of Bush's foreign policy successes, there is not likely to BE another 9/11...

Posted by: rob at May 14, 2005 04:47 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"And because of Bush's foreign policy successes, there is not likely to BE another 9/11..."

...utter nonesense: young george's feeble attempts at dealing with people that aren't like him have nothing at all to do with missing suitcase nukes and porous borders - the odds are good that a device is already in this country. chemical factories are woefully undergaurded. as are mass transportation services in almost all our cities...

and if you seriously thing that youg george's posturing around the world has struck fear into the hearts of the rest of the world, turn your myopic gaze to north korea...

Posted by: Doc at May 16, 2005 02:27 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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