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January 17, 2007

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"In other words, why not wait? I’m willing to concede that if Saddam developed nuclear weapons, and if he was BFFs with al Qaeda, war makes sense."

That is waiting too long.

I would say that the BEST dove argument that has been vindicated is that war has lots of unpredictable ways to lose and fairly difficult ways to win that Bush wasn't following. (For example his failure to IMMEDIATELY raise troop recruitment levels. The insistence on tax cuts instead of increasing the funding of the military.) I think that Bush was largely correct about how foolish it is too let Saddam play the international community until oops, he has nuclear weapons. That was the 1989 scenario which for some reason we lucked out of. (In fact that was much like Hitler's betrayal of Russia. Lucky for everyone he didn't wait, but that is the kind of luck we shouldn't be eager to rely on.)

Sebastian: That is waiting too long.

Say rather: If it was clear that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, and that he had a political relationship with al-Qaeda that would have made it likely he would have allowed al-Qaeda access to his nuclear arsenal, then war on Iraq would have been justifiable to the Security Council.

The first half of that would have been provable by the inspectors if it had been true, but as soon as it was clear Bush had no intention of waiting for the inspectors (and was lying about the evidence for nuclear weapons) that was enough to make clear that the Bush administration did not believe its own case for war: and the UK government knew this by mid-2002, and the general public - the world - knew this by February 2003.

The second half, it has become clear, was not credible anyone who had made any kind of detailed study of the region. That when Saddam Hussein's regime eventually collapsed with his death WMD might have got into the control of terrorists would be good reason to have plans to deal with this, just as it would be good reason to have plans to deal with the nuclear weapons that were under the control of the former USSR. That the Bush administration were uninterested in dealing with the nuclear weapons from the former USSR, and were uninterested in securing and destroying stockpiled WMD even in Iraq, that was enough by itself to make clear that the Bush administration had not believed its own case for war. And this too was becoming clear even before March 2003, though as I recall, the final evidence that the Bush administration had made no effort to locate/secure/destroy stockpiled WMD in Iraq did not come out till October 2004.

stimson apologized

"In other words, why not wait? I’m willing to concede that if Saddam developed nuclear weapons, and if he was BFFs with al Qaeda, war makes sense."

That is waiting too long.

Iraq's supposed WMD were never the main reason for GWB's invasion, as Paul Wolfowitz so frankly admitted. The Iraq war was that most cynical and morally depraved of wars: a war started for internal political gain. And it worked: self-professed liar and warmongerer Wolfowitz is now head of the World Bank; Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney, who lied shamelessly - and keeps lying shamelessly - about al-Qaeda's "relationship" with Saddam Hussein, has been re-elected.

600 thousand *excess* dead and almost two million Iraqis refugees fled away from their home country, for a war whose main raison d'etre has been to help GWB's otherwise totally lackluster administration win two elections, and for which no other strategic reason for continuation exists other than to save political face.

For a humanitarian disaster of this magnitude, and this utter pointlessness, it would be justice if key members of this administration and its toadies were lined up against a wall and shot. Unfortunately GWB can look forward to a lifetime filled with sycophantic hagiography, and public works named after him, (after a suitable rehabilitation period), and the more prominent hawks will move on to think-tank welfare.

I would extend to the hawks the same amount of respect and conciliation that they would have extended towards the rest of the world had Saddam been found to have been sitting on a mountain of nuclear warheads, and should Iraq have become a prosperous liberal democracy: that is, not one single iota.

As a liberal who was against this war from the get go, let me tell you why I was against it.

1. The rhetoric did not fit the evidence on the ground. Too much hyperbole about smoking guns being mushroom clouds clouded normally rational Americans's thinking.

2. Colin Powell said in February 2001 that sanctions had actually worked against Iraq and Iraq wasn't really a threat to her neighbors.

3. No Iraq neighboring country was preparing for a supposed invasion from Iraq, not even Israel. If Iraq was not a threat to her neighbors, how could it pose a threat to the United States, 8000 miles away?

4. Saddam had no part in 9/11. Our priority was to completely dismantle and destroy Al-Qaida, which was in Afghanistan, not in Iraq. Zarqawi was in Iraq, yes, but the Bush administration failed to disclose the fact that Zarqawi lived in northern Iraq, among the Kurds, far from Saddam's influence, in the no-fly zone, in fact. But that evidence, were it to be publicly pronounced, would undermine the rationale that Saddam harbored Al-Qaida fugitives.

5. Iraq would have been (and as it turns out correctly has become) a distraction from the real fight against those who attacked us, in Afghanistan. The sole and number one reason why Afghanistan is regressing is because we no longer had it as our priority. Now what we see is Al-Qaida just as strong as before, but now operating from Pakistan and still in Afghanistan. This is a criminal travesty!

6. The notion that Iraq could be turned into a flourishing democracy was a fool's dream.

7. Worse, the executors of this fool's dream attempted to do nation-building on the cheap when Pentagon war games clearly showed you needed at least 500,000 troops on the ground!

Do you really need anymore reasons in 2002 for not backing this war? I'm still rather shocked that back in 2002 so many Americans bought the crap from this administration. In 2002, 70% of Americans thought Saddam had something to do with 9/11. What the hell is wrong with y'all! The evidence was clear (at least for those who don't have short-term attention spans).

Forgive me, the feelings are still a little raw that so many Americans fell for this charlatan act, this bamboozling!

Good Post. Publius pretty much echoes my sentiments. I add that I found the war cries coming from the Right Wingers of the religious right extremely disturbing. That group seemed to have a stranglehold on the definition of patriotism in a way that was disturbing. I simply had not seen anything like it before, it was as if a brainwashing was going on. The RW very successfully used god and patriotism interchangeably, took liberties with the events of 911 that were only a few months to years old and sold that case to America. (eg. Iraq was responsible for 911). By the time votes were taken on the war it was my feeling that anyone not supporting war would certainly be swept out of office at election time if not before that election by men with hobnail boots. I recall this as a very scary time. It was a time that people with the sentiments I had, really had to quit talking politics at work. My work environment was pretty much right wing and young christian soldiers certain of their justification that pre-emptive war was far far more noble than having a president that gets blow-jobs on the side in a consensual affair. There is simply no way today that the RW could get any justification for their cause in the same group settng I felt alienated from only a few years ago. To this day I have no idea why that war could be sold as it was. I recall doubting myself and getting a bit scared with the mushroom cloud talk, it was during that period and when Powell spoke to the UN that I actually, for a while, believed that it was possible these folks knew somethig we did not.

I recall an episode of Star Trek where there was a cloud floating about that carried ideas it injected into the communities of men it floated through. These ideas were harmful to the Enterprise and to the worlds they were protectng at the time. Kirk had sme colorful fights with the cloud but of course eventually the cloud floated on, taking its ideas with it. Now we are free to pick up the pieces and try to straighten out the mess it left in its wake.

right on.

Jes and Dan do a good job of summarizing why it's not crazy for people to have been against the war, for exactly the right reasons, from the start.

in addition to what they said, i'll add that by fall 02, i had no confidence that the same gang who was already failing to turn Afghanistan around was going to do a better job with Iraq.

and, we shuold note that Kevin Drum's not just playing with hypotheticals here; people really are running with the argument he describes. for example, here's Jane Galt on why her strawdoves don't deserve any credit:


    This has not convinced me of the brilliance of the doves, because precisely none of the ones that I argued with predicted that things would go wrong in the way they did. If you get the right result, with the wrong mechanism, do you get credit for being right, or being lucky? In some way, they got it just as wrong as I did: nothing that they predicted came to pass. It's just that independantly, things they didn't predict made the invasion not work. If I say we shouldn't go to dinner downtown because we're going to be robbed, and we don't get robbed but we do get food poisoning, was I "right"? Only in some trivial sense. Food poisoning and robbery are completely unrelated, so my belief that we would regret going to dinner was validated only by random chance. Yet, the incident will probably increase my confidence in my prediction abilities, even though my prediction was 100% wrong.

[I would say that the BEST dove argument that has been vindicated is that war has lots of unpredictable ways to lose and fairly difficult ways to win that Bush wasn't following.]

The most prominent rationale for the war was WMD. It was also the only part of the case for war that justified the timing of the war. Lots of doves argued that there was little serious evidence that Saddam either had, or was capable of developing in a relevantly short period, WMD. That case has been vindicated. Therefore, the part of the anti-war case directed at the strongest reason for the occurrence and timing of the war has been vindicated. That is the best dove argument.

I think that Bush was largely correct about how foolish it is too let Saddam play the international community until oops, he has nuclear weapons. That was the 1989 scenario which for some reason we lucked out of.

As I recall, the Bedwetter-in-Chief said much the same about North Korea. Funny he never did anything about that. His total inertness wrt North Korea told me a lot.

As I recall, the Bedwetter-in-Chief said much the same about North Korea. Funny he never did anything about that. His total inertness wrt North Korea told me a lot.

North Korea has Nukes and has no Oil and a powerful ally (China)that will not let the US invade.

The Iranians have Oil, they better get Nukes real fast, and a powerful ally who will back them up when the sh*t hits the fan (may I boldly suggest Russia), or else they will go the way of Iraq. It's only a matter of time.

What the Hell, Publius: Next thing we'll find out Billmon has gone off to join forces with The Mahablog. Well, good luck and good writing over here. Your presence here will get me to pay attention to a blog I've ignored or avoided till now. My concern is that your very fine, idiocencratic thought processes and writing will be diluted by your good nature and attempts to fit-in. Don't let that happen, ok?

I think that Bush was largely correct about how foolish it is too let Saddam play the international community until oops, he has nuclear weapons.

Like just about everyone else, I thought Iraq had some chemical weapons left, though I was getting more sceptical even of that as I read the U.N. inspectors complaints about Iraq's missing paperwork. That sounded more like the result of a dsyfunctional bureaucracy than a bunch of expert fakers.

But the U.N. inspectors seemed pretty sure Iraq had no nuclear weapons and I believed them. Given that, it made no sense to invade on the grounds of protecting the U.S. from Saddam. And it made even less sense to invade before the results of the remaining inspections -- a point I recall MoveOn making.

I remember hoping at the time that Bush & Co. would screw this up less than our leaders screw up the usual imperialist adventure. But they acted like USCo. had acquired Iraq Inc. in a hostile takeover -- of course the employees would keep working as before, except the ones that we chose to downsize (like the Iraqi army).

Sebastian,

"I think that Bush was largely correct about how foolish it is too let Saddam play the international community until oops, he has nuclear weapons."

I'd say in response that Bush handled the international community well to get strong inspections. However, the problem was that once the inspections got going, they quickly found nothing but dry holes, even with the US telling the IAEA where to inspect. This leads to only two possible conclusions:

1. US intelligence as to the WMD programs was wrong.
2. The Bush Administration was intentionally not telling the IAEA where they thought the WMD's were. I find this extremely unlikely, as finding caches of WMD's or active programs would have been the perfect way to silence any skeptics, at home or abroad. However, it could happen as a way of getting maximum political benefit from the war, by painting opponents as not merely too trusting of our enemies (as was frequently alleged) but provably taken in by them.

In either case, the rationale for trusting the Bush Administration fell apart. And certainly once this was true there was no reason to rush into a war.

I'm trying to remember all the reasons why I was against the war in '02-'03. It's hard to remember when I thought what (having a blog would be handy for that). Instead what's coming back are memories of the weirdness of that winter. Spending spring break in front of CNN 24 hours out of the day. Seeing Aaron Brown talk about how wonderful Donald Rumsfeld was, what a swell and upstanding guy, during a regular primetime broadcast on the day the invasion started. New York policemen thanking protesters for being there. Protesters thanking New York policemen for being there. It was a weird time. Thinking back to the protests, the main themes I remember from placards, surely the best way to gauge the opinions of serious people, was 1) Not in Our Name (i.e. that Bush et al were exploiting 9/11 for cynical ends) 2) No Blood for Oil (and I believe I read a speech by Bush where he said something like that one of the main reasons for not leaving Iraq now was that the oil would be in the hands of enemies of the US) and let's not forget 3) Bush is Stupid (while I've always thought he was a lot smarter than people give him credit for, I think enough time has passed so that it can safely be said that the Iraq War will not go down in history as a move of strategic genius).

I can stand behind those sentiments today.

It's only a matter of time.

Iran may have already gotten on China's dance card

These two earler articles (here and here) suggest that Iran will be a lot lighter on its feet than Iraq was. It will be funny if the US complains that China is signing these agreements, and the Chinese say 'hey, you wanted us to get into this free market thing, this is what you get'.

I said at the time, and can say now, that the invasion of Iraq before Osama and Dr. Z., at the least, were either dead or captured was simply unforgivable.

I can also say that I only barely care what liberals who supported the war have to say. They were wrong and irrelevant. They are today wrong and irrelevant.

If Iran does nothing militarily for the next twenty years but develops its gas reserves and gets a nuclear power industry going, they'll be running the Middle east.

I'm also wondering about this "anti-war folks must justify themselves" thing. The burden of war should always be on its advocates. Let's let the advocates show us how they were right.

Well, considering I was against the war in 2002 enough to go two two of the big marches in DC, let me see if I can remember why.

Oh yeah. First of all, I didn't trust the Bush administration to be either honest or competent. The impression they gave was just using the war for domestic political gain. I'd say this has been proved completely right.

Second, I didn't believe the claims about WMD in Iraq, which has also been proved right.

Those were the two main reasons. I'll have to hunt around and find the photos I took at the protests and see what the signs say, but most of them were along the lines of "Not in my name" and "No blood for oil" and so on.

Notably, both of the times I went to the protests, Bush made sure to not be at the White House. Heaven forbid he see people who disagree with him.

There are plenty of other reasons, but I'm not sure which of the specifics I knew beforehand, and which I learned about as the war progressed and was run so incredibly incompetently. But most of them would be classed under "occupying a country where you don't speak the language is hard" and "Man, the Bush administration's incompetent."

*searches vainly for the memo*

Who posting in this thread is publius? I see no publius here. ("Adventure" flashback)

I had a lot of reasons to be opposed to the war from the get-go, but the biggest were:

1A) the emotional argument for the war was that Iraq was behind 9/11. This is what I heard on the street, on talk radio, etc., even if that's not what Powell said to the UN.

1B) Iraq wasn't behind 9/11.

2) I recognize bullying when I hear it. This was the overwhelming emotional factor for me: the prowar faction were being bullies. Couldn't you tell?

I'm probably going to get into all sorts of trouble for this argument and I caution that it is a spur of the moment, not necessarily thought through point, but just so people can play with it, here goes:

Suppose Saddam Hussein got nukes. Big frigging deal. Stalin had nukes. China has nukes. Pakistan and India have nukes and a war going on. North Korea may very well have nukes. The US has nukes and has demonstrated a willingness to use them as long as it is absolutely sure that the country it is nuking has no ability whatsoever to strike back.

So if Hussein got nukes, what could he do that wouldn't be completely suicidal? The US has nukes--far more nukes than Hussein was going to get anytime soon even supposing he managed to scrap together a bit of uranium or plutonium, the willingness to use them, and his address. And a larger, more spread out population. In short, he'd have to be crazier than Stalin to use them. The thing that his having nukes would do would be make it impossible for the US to invade with perfect impunity. If I were the leader of Iran, I'd be putting everything I could into a secret nuclear program. It's the only way to be anything like safe from a US invasion.

"I'd say in response that Bush handled the international community well to get strong inspections."

I don't understand this concept. The way Bush got the international community to go allong with inspections was to spend hundreds of millions of dollars actually shipping our armed forces out to Iraq and being willing to go to war. The international community's response before that was precisely the response that led to Saddam's very aggressive nuclear programs from the late 1980s. Now, again, I have no idea why Saddam was so stupid as to invade Kuwait before getting the nukes which post Gulf War I inspectors discovered were about a year away. But that is one of those bits of extreme luck (like Hitler not waiting to betray Russia until after he had the Western front fully dealt with) that it isn't wise to count on.

Now, in a different world, perhaps one where the international community had backed Clinton on strong inspections for 8 years, that would have been a very different story.

It is an interesting irony that Bush's push for war with Iraq was so successful in America largely because the international community had abandoned the nuclear proliferation issue four years earlier under Clinton--making good information on the programs in Iraq impossible to come by.

"The US has nukes--far more nukes than Hussein was going to get anytime soon even supposing he managed to scrap together a bit of uranium or plutonium, the willingness to use them, and his address. And a larger, more spread out population. In short, he'd have to be crazier than Stalin to use them. The thing that his having nukes would do would be make it impossible for the US to invade with perfect impunity."

Well he could have invaded Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with impunity as well. The international community had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Gulf War I when Saddam attacked Kuwait. With nukes in Saddam's hands would they have been more or less interested in going against him? I'll just thank God we don't have to find out.

"3. No Iraq neighboring country was preparing for a supposed invasion from Iraq, not even Israel."

I feel compelled to point out that Israel isn't a neighbor of Iraq, other than in the sense that Cyrpus, or Georgia, are. Tel Aviv is 559 miles (900 km) from Baghdad.

It's also, for this reason, difficult to invade a country with which you have no border, and not even a sea between. Countries in between you either have to agree, or be invaded as well.

It's a tad unremarkable that Israel wasn't threatened with "invasion" by Iraq, therefore, let alone "not even Israel," as if this was a likely threat. (Iraq did, of course, rain down missiles on Israel in Gulf War I, however, and was paying the families of suicide bombers thousands of dollars after each bombing, FWIW.)

The way Bush got the international community to go allong with inspections was to spend hundreds of millions of dollars actually shipping our armed forces out to Iraq and being willing to go to war.

and then he got the inspections, and the inspections turned up nothing, and he invaded anyway because he the whole "inspections" thing, along with the rest of the WMD line, was just a ruse anyway.

Now, again, I have no idea why Saddam was so stupid as to invade Kuwait before getting the nukes which post Gulf War I inspectors discovered were about a year away.

Unless he already had HEU or plutonium he was a lot further away from nukes than a year.

FAS

I thought the argument that saddam was gong to get nukes was debunked before we even invaded. Bush made the claim about nukes in his State of the Union address and, shortly afterwards, his staement was challenged by Wilson and it was revealed that Rice and tenet had advised him against making the claim. At least that is how I remember the chrononlogy. The idea that it made sense to invade given what we knew about the nuke threat pre-invasion doesn't make sense given that we knew pre-invasion that he didn't have the capacity to make them or, at least, that the claims that he did were extremly qyestinable. Sorry, no time to clean up typso, late for class.

It's also, for this reason, difficult to invade a country with which you have no border, and not even a sea between.

difficult, but not impossible, obviously.

Tel Aviv is 559 miles (900 km) from Baghdad.

border to border, through Jordan or Syria, Iraq is about 200mi from Israel - a short plane ride away. still, as the OP notes, Iraq wasn't about to invade Israel even though they are a short plane ride, or a day's drive, apart.

Why did we have to initiate the war in March 2003? My recollection of the reason given was that we already had been moving troops and equipment into Kuwait since about October 2002, if we delay we have everyone sitting around with nothing to do for months or longer, and lord knows we didn't want to start war in the summer months because Saddam had all those bio weapons that were going to rain down on our guys so they would need there bio hazard suits that they would bake in when it's 120 deg.

So it was we had the gun loaded and cocked, and we didn't want to sit there and aim it at them any longer because we'd get tired of holding it, so we shot!

That is the only explanation I've ever heard of why we went WHEN we did that I think has any truth.

Well he could have invaded Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with impunity as well. The international community had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Gulf War I when Saddam attacked Kuwait.

Frankly I still don't see why we had to join in Gulfwar 1. With hindsight that's another war the US had to lie for.

his staement was challenged by Wilson

That seems to be the trope, but there isn't much to that. Wilson claimed to have refuted something that Bush didn't say to begin with.

Don't drive on icy roads, reprise.

The international community had to be dragged kicking and screaming to Gulf War I when Saddam attacked Kuwait.

Agree with dutchmarbel. The "international community" largely stayed out of the Iran-Iraq war, and given the mess both Gulf Wars created, would have done well to have kept out of GW1.

Well he could have invaded Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with impunity as well.

So? What's the worst that could have happened, hundreds of thousands dead, millions of refugees, long term oil price above 50 dollars a barrel? Oh wait ...

Inspired by this post, I searched the internets and found my first internet posting that mentions Iraq, dated February 7, 2001, in a post about National Missile Defence.

And first post that dealt with the then 2 month away invasion...

An erosion of America's already plummeting prestige? Confirmation of it's imperial ambitions? An alienation between it and the populations of most other Western countries? Blair notwithstanding, even the Brits are deeply ambivalent. For what?

For some empty Katushya rocket shells? Iraq is a shell of it's former "glory". There are bigger fish to fry and this ain't it....

....What has changed? The strategy of the U.S. supporting repressive regimes worldwide hasn't changed. It is only confirming when those regimes are no longer useful they will be removed, by force if America finds it in their interest.

The United States had a golden opportunity to get rid of him 12 years ago, and choose the "realpolitik" option of maintaining his regime as a counterweight to Iran.

That many thousands of Iraqis died in the uprisings directly urged by George Bush Sr. is morally disgusting, but sadly par for the course.

Ahh...crazy hippy memories.

Ahh...crazy hippy memories

ain't they great?

here's me, 2/25/03:

    Q: you really think Afghanistan is worse off with a government selected by their own tribal leaders than they were with the Taliban or a bunch of armed thugs?

    me: from what i've read, Kabul is safer now, but the warlords are back in control of the country side and al-Q may actually be setting up shop again.

    will Iraq turn out the same way? right now, conflicts between the religious and ethnic factions are only held in check because of Saddam. will the US puppet govt have the power to maintain the peace? if Afghanistan is any indication, the answer is no.

This is not difficult. The war was wrong, from the start, because it was ILLEGAL and IMMORAL. Nothing else really matters.

This war has gone much worse for the Bush administration than I ever anticipated, but my opposition to the war was never based on any judgment that invading Iraq would be a 'strategic blunder' or that the administration's plans for the country were unrealistic --- though these things would provide an ancillary case against the war for anyone blind to the obvious case against it.

The excuse for Iraq that is already shaping up is similar to the excuse for Vietnam: our intentions were good, but it just didn't work out. BULLSHIT. If you actually believe that the Bush administration had benign intentions regarding Iraq, you are almost as, shall we say, dumb as were those who advocated for the invasion.

Well he could have invaded Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with impunity as well.

I don't know about Kuwait, but if he had invaded Saudi Arabia and installed a puppet regime, his puppets could hardly have been any worse than the US's. And if it resulted in higher gas prices in the US, so much the better. Maybe US-Americans would cut down on their greenhouse gas production a little.

We have puppets in Saudi Arabia? Here I thought that our government was a Saudi puppet.

But even more troubling was how quickly the nation accepted war.

There is the heart of the matter. Disturbing then, disturbing now.

I would say that the BEST dove argument that has been vindicated is that war has lots of unpredictable ways to lose and fairly difficult ways to win that Bush wasn't following.

As far as I can tell, pretty much EVERY dove argument has been vindicated. I'm amazed people are still talking about this.

The BEST dove argument, then and now, is that there was no good reason to invade, and lots of good reasons not to.

Those who opposed invading were shouted down. Now we pay.

Thanks -

IMO, the only questionable reason to have been against the invasion in march 2003 was general pacifism. any combination of the many arguments suggested by others was sufficient to justify opposition. having read pollack's book in 2002, I was initially persuaded that the risk of inaction was sufficient to justify at least serious consideration of military action. by the time of powell's laughable (as I watched it, I literally did) UN performance, it was clear that the gist - if not the style - of atrios's argument should have been persuasive to anyone who remembered - or otherwise knew the history of - our vietnam debacle.

in short, all supporters of the war - for whatever reasons - were wrong; all opponents - for whatever reasons - were right and owe no one an explanation. but all might want to reflect on their decision process before making their decision about war with iran, especially those who were wrong about iraq (and vietnam, if they're antiquarians like me).

-charles

I'd like to remind people that putting words in all caps isn't an argument, although it does make the writer appear to be 9-years-old, and convinced that they're writing to other 9-year-olds.

"Frankly I still don't see why we had to join in Gulfwar 1. With hindsight that's another war the US had to lie for."

I find arguing about the merits of the 2003 war highly uninteresting, myself, these days; there's nothing that's gone unsaid on the topic, by now, and I'm not a huge fan of repetition for its own sake.

However, I think I may be unfamiliar with the reasoning/beliefs you're reflecting in this statement, Dutchmarbel, so I'm passingly curious as to what you're talking about.

Myself, I opposed Gulf War I, on the basis that containment would be sufficient; I think the surprising results of the post-Gulf War I UN inspections showing how close Saddam Hussein was to constructing nuclear weapons at the time of the war showed that I was wrong, insofar as preventing him from obtaining such weapons was indeed -- at the time -- a reasonable goal. (Note that this is pretty irrelevant to the 2003 war.)

I initially supported the war despite my concern that it was a huge distraction from the real issues such as hunting down and killing Bin Laden, stabilizing Israel/Palestine, and a bunch of other issues. My major reason for supporting the war was the fact that the sanctions were hurting the weakest Iraqis and having minimal effect on the Baathist elite. Containment placed the US in the position of screwing over the weak (including excess child mortality) while doing little to ceate a long-term solution.

My support also rested heavily on an assumption that turns out to have been about as wrong as it's possible to get: Namely that having been lobbying for war with Iraq for over ten years, the PNACers would have put in considerable effort to create an effective reconstruction plan. I was disabused of this notion in the first week after the statue came down.

Also, unless you're referring to people's hips, the word is "hippie." Not "hippy."

I don't understand this concept. The way Bush got the international community to go allong with inspections was to spend hundreds of millions of dollars actually shipping our armed forces out to Iraq and being willing to go to war. The international community's response before that was precisely the response that led to Saddam's very aggressive nuclear programs from the late 1980s.

This is just not true. The sanctions regime that addressed WMD components was doing its job. Further, heightened scrutiny of Saddam's ambitions led him to abandon pursuit of a nuke - as set forth in the Duelfer Report.

Now, Saddam hoped to eventually escape from such scrutiny, have the sanctions removed and possibly restart the program down the line, but even then he didn't want to suffer the sanctions regime again - and said as much. So he was ambivalent. In other words, the sanctions and heightened attention were a good deterrent.

So much so that...Saddam had no nuke program.

Bravo.

Sebastian,

""I'd say in response that Bush handled the international community well to get strong inspections."

I don't understand this concept. The way Bush got the international community to go allong with inspections was to spend hundreds of millions of dollars actually shipping our armed forces out to Iraq and being willing to go to war."

That's right. Had the Administration not done so, no inspections would have been made. That's why Bush did well in forcing the international community's collective hand to pressure Iraq. It's also why I don't give any Democrats a hard time about supporting the war resolution in October 2002 -- it was a necessary step to build up that pressure.

The problem was that once the inspections found nothing, no one in the Administration dropped their pre-conceived notions of whether there were WMD in Iraq. It was at that point that the Administration fell down.

Also, unless you're referring to people's hips, the word is "hippie." Not "hippy."

You say tomato, I say variant...pass the bong.

And who are you cally hippy?

dutch_marbel, "Frankly I still don't see why we had to join in Gulfwar 1. With hindsight that's another war the US had to lie for."

This is confusing. Did the US somehow lie about Saddam invading Kuwait? Was that a Hollywood production? Argh.

"Agree with dutchmarbel. The "international community" largely stayed out of the Iran-Iraq war, and given the mess both Gulf Wars created, would have done well to have kept out of GW1."

Argh part two. Is it only Poland when the Netherlands is next?

The best rationale, which I think is a slightly distilled version of Pub's "something smells wrong" is/was Daniel Davies' "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance." If it was actually a good idea, it should have been able to stand on its own. Instead of dismissing Shinseki, they would have explained why he was wrong, rather than giving him the trapdoor in the floor treatment.

I have to admit to being ambivalent at the time. It seemed silly to me, and the level of bs being spewed (both in terms of false rationales and "Freedom Fries" style idiocy) gave me pause, but I was too trusting. Not of Bush, but of Powell, and probably more importantly, Blair. I just didn't have the requisite level of cynicism to believe that they would actually start a war for a combination of domestic political consumption and corporate gain. And then we didn't find nukes, and the stories about no-bid contracts starting percolating out...and it was too damn late.

And who are you cally hippy?

That would be "calling", but you probably gnu that.

The problem was that once the inspections found nothing, no one in the Administration dropped their pre-conceived notions of whether there were WMD in Iraq.

It is really frustrating to see that some people still fail to grasp what Paul Wolfowitz publically admitted and what most thinking people knew in 2003: the presence or absence of WMD in Iraq was immaterial. WMD formed a semi-plausible casus belli, but the war would have taken place with or without WMD. As, in fact, was the case.

This is what hawks like Sebastian are, intentionally or unintentionally, trying to obfuscate. The international community went along with inspections not because they gave a rat's ass about Saddam's rusting Katyusha warheads but because Bush had a hundred thousand soldiers massed on Iraq's borders and the hope was that inspections would appease him and prevent an actual invasion.

It's an inconvenient fact for hawks to remember now that Bush's war has turned out to be an inglorious failure, but the international community (remember? the traitorous French and perfidious Old Europeans?) did their best to thwart Bush's invasion plans in the UN Security Council. They were not moved to action by Bush's brave confrontation of the threatof Saddam's supposed WMD program - a vicious rewrite of history, for prior to mid-2002 no country paid more than scant attention to Iraq - they were moved to action by the fact that Bush was determined to wage war no matter what, and the faint hope still existed that he could be appeased by Saddam's procedural compliance with the endless list of strident and increasingly unreasonable demands Bush and Blair were dragging to the UNSC.

Argh part two. Is it only Poland when the Netherlands is next?

One would hope that if you haven't learned anything from your failures of judgement regarding George W Bush and the invasion of Iraq, you would at least have the good sense to refrain from pushing the same old canards about Saddam, Hitler, Chamberlain and Churchill.

Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.

i remember multiple threads back in the day on Tacitus where commenters patiently explained to me how it was so essential for Bush to get this war that the lies around WMD, al-Q, imminent-end-of-Western-civ were not only permissible, but a Damn Good Idea. i believe Luis A* was the greatest proponent of this idea, though there were others.

i'd look it up, but well, all that's down the memory hole.

There were many of us, not doves, who just thought what does invading Iraq have to do with preventing another 9/11 or even exacting revenge? When the admin made Sadam the flimsy bad guy I thought, ok..then just shoot him..but don't invade the damn country. I don't think this was mostly hawk vs dove but hawk vs hawk with another way. That being intelligence, police work and surgical strikes in the short run and cultural export in the long run. Which was derided by most pro war hawks.

Frankly, I was right about pretty much everything. But I'm also pretty good at guessing who's going to win the Oscars. I was particularly perplexed as to how Rove and crew clearly thought this was going to be a good electoral strategy for more than just 2002, when it was so bloody obvious it would be an unmitigated disaster. And this is the better of the two worlds -- had there been WMDs, it would have been worse, since the one time a non-suicidal regime would use WMDs on a massive scale is when they're, you know, being invaded with intent to depose.

The Cliff Notes version of my journey: I was initially appalled at the prospect of invading Iraq (first place I saw it suggested was in a William Safire column back in March 2002 under the guise that Osama had fled to Iraq to join his Al Qaeda brethren), then became somewhat convinced of its necessity because why would the Administration lie about something like that, then became rapidly disabused of my innocence and turned against it. I remember distinctly that there was one speech -- I think it was Ari Fleischer talking in response to something the IAEA or Scott Ritter had said -- when I became utterly convinced that I was hearing one of my students explaining how they managed to oversleep the exam and that was it; their credibility was gone.

The ultimate irony, though, is that I ended up having to support the war in March 2003 because Bush had basically raised the stakes too damn high to call it off. Had he backed down, every tinpot dictator in the world would have laughed in our faces, causing brushfires and human rights violations up the yin-yang. I had to hope that he'd manage to pull it off, even though I was convinced (correctly) that he'd make a hash of it.

That endgame, to me, exemplifies what I consider to be Bush's signature tactic: putting more and more into the pot until even his political opponents are forced to support him despite their misgiving, simply because the cost of losing would be so high. As we're discovering in Iraq. And apparently Afghanistan.

I was against the war (over here in New Zealand) for a whole variety of reasons but the most compelling was the fact that US troops just aren't trained as peacekeepers and there appeared to be no actual effort put into giving them this training.

I remembered one of the commanders from the peacekeeping forces in East Timor saying "sooner or later no matter how popular or how needed we are here, the local populace is going to get sick of us and at that point no matter how much is left undone we will have to leave"

In East Timor foreign troops came in to help in the immediate chaos after the withdrawal of Indonesia. They were a welcome presence and they restored order, they were all trained explicitly for this kind of work and there was always enough of them.
If even such favourable conditions produce eventual resentment imagine how a quickly a paltry force of untrained (in peacekeeping anyway) occupiers disrupting relatively stable cities was going to build up local resentment.

This seemed incredibly obvious to me, I'm not sure I see how anybody could miss it.

I'm not sure I see how anybody could miss it.

9/11 blinded a lot of people, some permanently.

Reasons I was against the war:

1. Watching Henry Kissinger discuss in 2002 the possibility of invading Iraq. The interviewer asked him if he thought we should invade Iraq. He said [and I'm paraphrasing except for the end of his sentence] "First we should have the UN send in inspectors in order to provide and excu-- uh... justification for invading."

That made me think maybe something was up.

2. Learning about how chemical weapons are manufactured, stored, and the sort of infrastructure they require. It sounded unlikely that any large WMD program could be kept hidden like that. And when we insisted that Iraq had mobile chemical weapons factories, that sounded like total bullshit. Imagine guys in the back of a trailer driving down the highway mixing chemicals. If this was what the Iraqis were doing, we should not be afraid of them.

3. Mohammed ElBaradei calling the Niger Yellowcake documents "a crude and obvious forgery". Why were we trying to convince the international community with forgeries?

4. Colin Powell claiming that an obvious misprint on Iraq's catalogue of military assets was a causus belli.

I am probably the kind of person the liberal hawks sneer at for being right for the wrong reasons. I didn't oppose the war because of some combination of specific facts about Iraq or Saddam. I opposed because I had no faith in the Bush administration to be anything bunch of self-serving liars. My mistrust was based partly on my memories of previous Republicanadministrations but mostly on the behavior of the Republican party during the years leading up to the war. A more contmeptible gang of partisan sleazeballs, criminals, religiouus fanatics and robber barons is hard to imagine than the Republicans elected to federal office during the last decade and a half. So I started from a basis of complete mistrust, a mistrust that I belive should have been shared by every Democratic politician and liberal pundit.
Then there was the tone of the war supporters: belligerent, contemptious, intimidating. It was clear, it seemed to me, that Bush and the Republican party leadership wanted the war very badly and were out to margiinalize anyone who attemped a question or discussion. They weren't explainig the reasons for a war: they were whippinng up jingoism and war fever.
Upthread someone asked why the liberal hawks were going out of the way to start this effort to discredit the liberals that were right when thhe hawks were wrong. I think the answer is that the liberal hawk pundits and politicians did not, in fact, come to their pro-war stance through a process of reasoned thought and now want to cover up their shameful behavior. People like Peter Beinnart and Hilary Clinton were wrong, not because thhey drew their conclusions carefully and responisbly from the data with which they were presented, but out of moral cowardice. They either wanted to retain some small scrap of power by sucking up to the bully party or they were simply afraid. Of course I can't prove that. It's just my interpetation.

"I am probably the kind of person the liberal hawks sneer at for being right for the wrong reasons."

That seems rather a broad brush. Who are some of these these liberal hawks who sneer at you? Are there any who don't sneer at you? Is there a single position known as the "liberal hawk" position, and if so, what is it? If not, is it useful or accurate to assert that "the" liberal hawks sneer at you?

This should have been one comment; apologies.

"I think the answer is that the liberal hawk pundits and politicians did not, in fact, come to their pro-war stance through a process of reasoned thought and now want to cover up their shameful behavior. [...] moral cowardice. [...] sucking up to the bully party or they were simply afraid."

Just so we're not tarring with a broad brush; it's always best to presume malice, cowardice, and moral failure, when there's disagreement, rather than allow for the possibility of reasonable people having different views.

Before the war, there was a time when Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias, and Mark Kleiman, just to name three liberal people, were giving support to alarm about Hussein, and possible military action against him. But there's no doubt they were all moral cowards seeking to suck up, just as John Kerry and the Clintons were.

However, I think I may be unfamiliar with the reasoning/beliefs you're reflecting in this statement, Dutchmarbel, so I'm passingly curious as to what you're talking about.

I'll try, also in answer to Sebastian, but it is late and I'm tired so my English is even worse. Beware before you proceed ;)

dutch_marbel, "Frankly I still don't see why we had to join in Gulfwar 1. With hindsight that's another war the US had to lie for."

This is confusing. Did the US somehow lie about Saddam invading Kuwait? Was that a Hollywood production? Argh.

Why the underscore in my nick? You think it's not obvious enough that I'm Dutch?
The US lied about plenty of things at the time. Most famously the build up of troops next to the border with SA and the stolen incubators. During the gulf war about their 'smart weapons', but that was more pretending that they mostly used those.

"Agree with dutchmarbel. The "international community" largely stayed out of the Iran-Iraq war, and given the mess both Gulf Wars created, would have done well to have kept out of GW1."

Argh part two. Is it only Poland when the Netherlands is next?

Weird comparision. Could you explain why it would be relevant here?

A week before the invasion your ambassador said to Saddam: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasise the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."

Two days before the invastion John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified to Congress that the:"United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the US has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq."

If we are going to talk about the war decision, remember how the decision was made by the leadership -- as opposed to the largely meaningless political debate that occurred later (which kept shifting in rationale and was poorly supported by evidence).

The basic decision to invade Iraq was made on 9/12/01. Everything subsequent was window dressing to justify it.

The final decision to go to war was made by Bush sometime in the Summer of 2002 (Afghanistan had to come first, even if only a half-assed effort, although the reports are tha Bush had to be convinced of that fact). Powell and Blair had to slow Bush down in order to get him to pretend to first go to the UN, which he dumped at the first opportunity. Bush still lies about how Saddam supposedly kicked out the UN inspectors, when it was Bush who ordered them out in order to start the war. Had they spent more time, the bogus WMD justification for the war would have been exposed. It was extremely telling that while Rumsfeld and crew lied about how "they know where the WMD is," they never shared this info with inspectors.

There was genuine suspicion that Saddam may have started up WMD programs since the wrongful 1998 end of inspections -- but war supporters constantly conflate that with certainty that the programs were believed to exist, and therefore war justifiable. War was clearly not the way to answer that question once broad inspections resumed in 2002. Uncertainty did not justify war.

If you think the war decision justifiable, this is the decisiomaking that you have to justify -- not some fantasy justification for the war. War with Iraq was on the agenda before 9/11, and 9/11 created the political climate that permitted it to be rolled out.

It was a gigasntic mistake, and had nothing to do with addressing the issues raised by 9/11. It was a perversion of America's role in the world in favor of the violent thuggish vision of Cheney, et al. -- America as the sole superpower dictating its will by force. And to think that the war propoganda included the deluded fantasy that we would also be spreading democracy, while simultaneously these people were planning on installing a Chalabi regime.

That is the legacy of this war. If you were for it in 2003, you best excuse is that you were conned.

To add a wrinkle, people who still feel the Iraq war decision justifiable (which was then unfortunately botched by horrible execution) cannot be trusted with a rational opinion about the Iran situation.

If the Iraq war was justified, then you have no credible argument for NOT starting a war with Iran. All of the arguments that allegedly justify the Iraq war apply even more so to Iran. In fact, the argument for the war lovers should be "Let's do it right this time." Increase the army by 1,000,000 and go for it.

Indeed, the neo-cons who are Iran war advocates are at least true to their screwed up principles -- they see it this way.

If you were for it in 2003, you best excuse is that you were conned.

Thank God we have such nuanced and moderate discussion here.

here comes Moderate Man!

there is a fair case for the war out there. Since I don't think that the case was made with sufficient strength to justify the invasion I'm probably not the best person to argue it, but here goes:

1. The status quo antebellum was not sustainable long term. The support for sanctions was diminishing even after 9/11 and the very idea of keeping perpetual no-fly zones over a country is weird and inconsistent with basic notions of sovereignity. (I thought a good analogy was the premise underlying Escape From New York).

2. The US has vital interests in the Middle East. (duh, oil.) Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and China's movement toward a quasi-capitalistic society, there is no place on the planet both as disfunctional and as important as the Middle East. Poland and East Germany shed communism; Chekoslovakia peacefully split into two countries. It was time to work some of that special Uncle Sam liberty / democracy mojo on ME countries that worked so well when the Iron Curtain came down.

3. Saddam was on a short short list of special threats. He attacked Iran, Kuwait and a big slice of his own population. He was never going to be bought out a la Marcos and he needed to be stopped. And all the other penny-ante thugs around the planet needed to learn that at some point you can go too far and draw the wrath of Uncle Sam.

4. Real consequences should attach to violations of UN security council resolutions.

there's probably more, but those are the major points. Note: no WMD. Also note: there is an underlying assumption to most of these points that we will leave the country better off than when we started.

Francis, I'm not conceding any of your points, but you've still failed to state a claim. You still have to justify the invasion at the time: when Osama (and others) are still at large, and the Afghan project short of completion. It's an essential element of the claim, because you can't justify the timing, you've got no case.

CCarp: I don't disagree. I was responding to Andrew's clearly sarcastic comment about only suckers being pro-war in '03.

Once we start to slice-and-dice, we can get into different versions of pro-war-with-the-army-you-have versus anti-this-war-now.

it seems to me that an essential element of any war strategy is having everything you need -- troops, materiel, leadership -- for victory, in addition to a justification.

Personally, I thought the justification was paper-thin at best and that we lacked a number of the necessary elements to achieve victory.

for blog addicts, the foregoing is a different way of looking at the Incompetence Dodge much blogged about over at Yglesias and friends.

"...it seems to me that an essential element of any war strategy is having everything you need -- troops, materiel, leadership -- for victory, in addition to a justification."

Speaking 100% in the abstract -- and quite hoping that point won't be subsequently lost -- that element would have to be balanced against perceived need. It's not infrequent that -- heck, it's extraordinary when -- wars have been engaged in while having everything one needed.

Certainly the US in the Civil War, and WWI and WWI and the Korean War, had a war strategy, without everything they needed. So, apparently, it wasn't an essential element to have everything they needed.

I'm doubtless missing something.

it seems to me that an essential element of any war strategy is having everything you need

One, I presume that this only applies in cases of wars of choice.

Two, I doubt that anyone can predict with great confidence what is needed to win a war. The number of wars that unfolded in accordance with prior expectations can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

This is not to say that there are not elements of good questions to ask prior to undertaking a war of choice. Just some caveats.

I'm doubtless missing something.

It's not nice to tempt me with that easy a straight line, Gary. ;)

"It's not nice to tempt me with that easy a straight line, Gary. ;)"

I miss endless amounts, all the time, Andrew. Neener neener neener.

;-)

Sebastian writes: "I would say that the BEST dove argument that has been vindicated is that war has lots of unpredictable ways to lose and fairly difficult ways to win that Bush wasn't following. "

This ignores a significant factor which I, for one always figured on: We were already busy with a more important and very difficult situation, and messing with Iraq would only damage that effort, if not make it worse.

Which, indeed, it has.

There was nothing so urgent about Saddam that we couldn't afford to concentrate on Al Qaeda first. And if we took care of Al Qaeda, then Saddam would have nobody to pass weapons to if he had any, (and if he suddenly lost his long-term paranoia so that he'd give Al Qaeda weapons he probably wouldn't entrust to his own sons.)

It's silly to consider Iraq in a vacuum, as if we weren't already dealing with a major long-term threat.

In retrospect, it was pretty silly to think we could invade Iraq and set up a functioning society there without Al Qaeda arriving and doing everything possible to keep that difficult thing from happening.

"Imagine guys in the back of a trailer driving down the highway mixing chemicals. If this was what the Iraqis were doing, we should not be afraid of them."

I don't think even meth heads are that crazy.

Sebastian writes: "Well he could have invaded Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with impunity as well."

Gosh, then we might have had to pay $3 a gallon for gas.

Also, I have a hunch the Wahhabis might *not* take kindly, nor would Al Qaeda, to Saddam controlling Saudi Arabia.

Sebastian writes: "I don't understand this concept. The way Bush got the international community to go allong with inspections was to spend hundreds of millions of dollars actually shipping our armed forces out to Iraq and being willing to go to war."

Too bad we didn't spend hundreds of millions to bring them right back after the inspections revealed Saddam had bupkis.

That'd be a savings of close to a trillion dollars, and hundreds of thousands of lives. We could have given every man, woman, child, and frozen embryo in America a windfall.

But no, Bush had to pull the "You can't leave me like this!" trick and claim that once he had a hard-on it had to be used.

"It is an interesting irony that Bush's push for war with Iraq was so successful in America largely because the international community had abandoned the nuclear proliferation issue four years earlier under Clinton--making good information on the programs in Iraq impossible to come by."

That's the advantage of using deterrence instead of preventive war. You don't need really precise information as long as the opponent knows he'll be atomized if he uses anything major against your interests.

But I'd say, most of all, Bush's push was successful because all the media pushed his line and stoked fear of highly unlikely scenarios. Why would Saddam give his best weapons to unfriendly, uncontrollable terrorist groups who might well use them against Saddam or his allies? Or Al Qaeda might have used them against Shia holy sites in Iraq, setting off a conflagration like we see today, which even Saddam might have had difficulty getting under control. Maybe a suitcase nuke in the vast Shiite cemetery in Najjaf?

If no one has yet linked to Avedon Carol's post about why no sane person should have supported the invasion of Iraq, I'll do it.

(There's even some comedy in the comments, as a regular charlie tries to argue for the war with excuses long debunked.)

Well, if nothing else, these discussions are worth a good chuckle. Perhaps the confusion over why people aren't falling over themselves to admit to error isn't as odd as I once thought.

Antiwar people: Geez, it's obvious those people who supported the war are incapable of critical reasoning, insane, stupid, immoral and worse. Why can't they just admit they're wrong?

Andrew: Geez, it's obvious those people who supported the war are incapable of critical reasoning, insane, stupid, immoral and worse. Why can't they just admit they're wrong?

Yeah, it does seem odd that those who supported the war would rather appear incapable of critical reasoning, insane, stupid, immoral and worse - than just admit they were wrong. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Why can't they just admit they're wrong?

or, at the very least, why can't they just admit that the people who were right were right ?

...and right for the right reasons.

cleek,

I'd say it's pure human nature. It's difficult for the average person to admit they were wrong about anything, and to admit you were wrong about something this big is that much more difficult. And admitting that the other side is right is a tacit admission that you were wrong, so it is hardly surprising people are reluctant to do so.

Or, Anarch, to avoid cherry-picking examples of people who were right for the wrong reasons. It's all part of the same basic human flaw. How often do we see a debate in which someone brings up the worst arguments of the other side in an attempt to buttress their own opinion?

I'd say it's pure human nature. It's difficult for the average person to admit they were wrong about anything, and to admit you were wrong about something this big is that much more difficult. And admitting that the other side is right is a tacit admission that you were wrong, so it is hardly surprising people are reluctant to do so.

Quite true, but there is a difference between personally holding your own rectitude and choosing to attempt to convince everyone else in print you're still right, instead of keeping your head down. One is human nature,
the other is pure ego.

I'd say it's pure human nature

no argument there.

42!

One is human nature,
the other is pure ego.

Isn't ego a big part of human nature?

Also, in my experience, people who are fearful they may be wrong are often that loudest advocates of their positions. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that many of these people, realizing they may have been wrong, are attempting to make themselves feel better by arguing that they were right in the hope that, if they can convince someone else that they're right, it will be so.

Andrew: I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that many of these people, realizing they may have been wrong, are attempting to make themselves feel better by arguing that they were right in the hope that, if they can convince someone else that they're right, it will be so.

Victory in Iraq, accomplished by pundits writing makeitsomakeitsomakeitso.

It's not unreasonable to suggest that; indeed, it's been suggested before that the problem is these pundits - and Bush himself, and most of his administration - have never before encountered a problem that couldn't be made to go away by redefining it.

But you cannot win a war by redefining victory as "whatever's happening at the moment".

And, in a similar line of thinking, Bush appointed Karl Rove to deal with the Katrina disaster - suggesting that to Bush, the "problem" of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless and a city destroyed is really just a public relations issue. None of the dead or the suffering matter, so long as people just stop talking about them - and stop blaming his administration for the ineffectiveness of the US response to Katrina.

Gary, my brush was considerably narrower than the one Publius used.
But, to be clearer, I meant the pundits with national platforms. Liberal pundits for the MSM are presumed, and present themselves has having, Beltway insider knowledge. That's why they get to be pundits. They are supposed to be in the know about politics. Well, I am prepared to believe that they are indeed in the know and,that as people who were well acquainted the behavior of Rove, Delay, Bush and other leading Republican politicians and partry operatives, they must have been aware that the information supporting the war was coming from ruthless, highly ideological pa4rtisans with an extensive track record of unprinicpled behavior. So why the hell did they believe it?
My recollection of the time preceeding the war is warped a bit because I was in graduate school studying Russian history. I had Stalinism on the brain. It was very weird to be studying Russian politics during a period of our history when it was impossible to buy hardware without being handed a jingoistic bumper sticker or buy gas with out being given a plasic flag and a directive to "Show your patriotism and stand together!" When my favorite local cafe suddenly sprouted a "Sleeping Giant Awakes" poster I really felt like I might as well pack for a trip to Siberia. And this was in a Democratic precinct of a liberal city in the bluest part of a blue state!
So I can imagine the pressure to go along that would-be opinion leaders felt. It was clear which way the parade was headed. Beltway pundits could run around to the front or fall on their faces and get stomped. Back then, before the war, it was widely assumed that the war would be short and victorious with only a few American deaths--ie. fun. Liberal politicans could reasonably assume that they would be creamed at the polls for failing to support the war and livberal pundits could reasonably expect to be viewed as partypoopers or idiots if they didn't write in support of it.
I have to get to class now.

Two, I doubt that anyone can predict with great confidence what is needed to win a war. The number of wars that unfolded in accordance with prior expectations can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Actually in general terms yes you can. You can predict that a mission whose goals culminate in a situation which requires nation-building/peacekeeping will require many soldiers who are trained in nation-building/peacekeeping.

The US did not have enough of these soldiers or that much experience deploying them.

Again what about this is was hard to see at the time?

I have to get to class now.

Come back and talk to us when you have no class.

Sorry. I tried and tried to resist.

Publius,

Your point about the worldwide opinion against making war of Iraq made me think about another time where you made the same point in a more general way. Ah, yes, it was when you wrote this in Federalist 63:

"An attention to the judgment of other nations is important to every government for two reasons: the one is, that, independently of the merits of any particular plan or measure, it is desirable, on various accounts, that it should appear to other nations as the offspring of a wise and honorable policy; the second is, that in doubtful cases, particularly where the national councils may be warped by some strong passion or momentary interest, the presumed or known opinion of the impartial world may be the best guide that can be followed. What has not America lost by her want of character with foreign nations; and how many errors and follies would she not have avoided, if the justice and propriety of her measures had, in every instance, been previously tried by the light in which they would probably appear to the unbiased part of mankind?"

The US did not have enough of these soldiers or that much experience deploying them.

Speaking as someone who has actually trained soldiers for peacekeeping missions, I hope you'll forgive me if I disagree. The Army has been performing peacekeeping missions on a moderate scale in Bosnia for over a decade and for more than half-a-decade in Kosovo. The training problem we face in Iraq is counterinsurgency, not peacekeeping. If you would like to argue about the Army's failure to develop a train a solid COIN doctrine you will be on sounder ground, although even a very good COIN doctrine would likely not have helped without a much larger initial force on the ground.

The Army has been performing peacekeeping missions on a moderate scale in Bosnia for over a decade and for more than half-a-decade in Kosovo.
Both of these places are much smaller than Iraq (and both had US soldiers coming in after their various crises). Neither were particularly about nation-building either (peacekeeping yes, nation building no).

The training problem we face in Iraq is counterinsurgency, not peacekeeping.

Part of the counter-insurgency problems were generated by a lack of proper nation-building/peacekeeping (by both military and civilian leadership)and part of a good counter-insurgency plan involves maintaining a good relationship with at least some of the locals.

Andrew:

If you were for it in 2003, you best excuse is that you were conned.

Thank God we have such nuanced and moderate discussion here.

Well, I see you did your best to improve the dialogue -- as well as ignoring the balance of what I wrote.

Geez, it's obvious those people who supported the war are incapable of critical reasoning, insane, stupid, immoral and worse. Why can't they just admit they're wrong?

All that needs to be done is admit error; the rest is what you choose to add -- no one is trying to rub your nose in the ground about this.

Acknowleding error is important -- it helps insure that the same collosal error will not be repeated. It would be nice if war supporters also acknowleged that a large number of war opponents correctly analyzed the situation and made the right call. (Instead of pretending that war opponents were just one big crowd of "No Blood for Oil" advocates, as argue in Sullivan's post today).

As for being conned, that is admitting error and ascribing it to the deceit of the war promoters. Hardly a bad thing, since good and smart people are often misled. We usually find fault with the frauds rather than the victims -- I don't know why you think the remark is so perjorative.

I tried reasonable. I get that thrown in my face. Sarcasm is merely an alternate attempt to communicate, but I have no illusions that it is likely to make a difference.

no one is trying to rub your nose in the ground about this.

If that's what you believe, I must assume you either a) aren't reading what people are saying or b) are being intentionally misleading. Based on your past history, I know what I'd bet on.

I don't recall Andrew ever making a negative chracterization of anyone who was righht about the war before it started. If he never made any such characterization, I don't see why he would have to say anything one way or the other about them now.

I tried reasonable. I get that thrown in my face.

not by all of us. and this particular medium is particularly suited to insults without consequences. i for one very much appreciate your posts and was saddened when you felt so strongly about your treatment here prior to the election that you left for a while.

look, you're a brave and honorable man, in times that are not particularly brave nor honorable.

as i have tried to argue, there were legitimate arguments for going to war. but many of the posters here are forceful and effective advocates that those arguments should have been negated by the stronger arguments that this war at this time was so unlikely to be successful that it should not be attempted. (a position, btw, that i agree with.)

but the fact that you disagree either with the factual basis for not going to war (insufficient troops, incompetent leadership) or the moral basis (preventive war is bad) does NOT mean that you are a bad, evil or stupid person. It simply means that in your professional opinion (one which has, in fact, more weight than the rest of us drunks) you thought that the value of the possible success outweighed the risk of possible failure.

on a semi-related note, please be careful on your tour of duty. i'm going to be really sad if i have to read about your demise.

Not that anyone cares this far down the thread, but from my vantage point at the time in Aberdeen, Scotland I was against the war because it looked like the U.S. had just kind of freaked out and gone crazy.

The weapons inspectors couldn't find anything, the Guardian was reporting Colin Powell as having called his U.N. speech a piece of shit and refusing to present parts of it because they were just too obviously bullshit, and generally everything the American press was reporting as facts everyone else in the world was calling a pack of lies.

It was really this war that made me realize how little the U.S. media has to do with actual news. It was also this war that made me realize how oblivious pretty much all Americans (including my friends who made a point to try and stay informed) really are to this fact.

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Whatnot


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