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January 15, 2004



I read Pollack's essay in the Atlantic and much of the commentary that it stimulated.

Pollack concludes by arguing that it is imperative for the US in general, and the Bush administration specifically, to admit their mistakes in analysis of the WMD threat, and what Pollack portrays as the administration overselling of the need to go to war.

If this is true, then certainly it must also be true that the "anti-war" campaign, who so wrongly predicted the millions of refuges, environmental catastrophes, the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of deaths, and quagmire ala Vietnam, needs to admit how utterly wrong they were in making such outrageous claims.

Similarly, the "world body" of the UN, France, Germany, Belgium, Russia, and the like, must admit their complicity in maintaining and allowing Saddam's butchery vis a vis their financial, logistical, and military support.

Again, and alas, the finger remains decidedly pointed at Bush and Blair as to their supposed shortcomings, in what Hitchens at least admits to, as being a complex endeavor at best, and a potentially lethal one at worst.

The facts leading to the decision to go to war were known, or at least thought to be well known, to everyone with a computer and an opinion. The Bush analysis and the decisions made thereafter, were not, as their critics allege cavalier or "cowboy-esque" Rather, they were in fact highly nuanced and deliberative.

This is not to say that Bush-Blair were completely, or even mostly right. But history has already shown that they were the most correct.


What Pollack seems to forget is that the burden was on Saddam to prove that he destroyed his WMD not on the US to prove he had them. This is a crucial distinction missing from his analysis and one most commentators seem to keep forgetting.

Henrik Mintis

It surprises me to see it written that the period 1945-1991 does not constitute a war against the Soviet Union. Great volumes of resources were spent. Great many lives were lost. Dozens of proxy battles raged, both hot and cold.

I also do not understand the resistance to the notion that the period 1945-1991 was in fact World War Three, and the current period beginning Sept 11 2001 can be called World War Four.

Finally, I will say that the question of war is almost moot. We see China, USSR and Cambodia named above, and the question asked about attacking said countries, but the question is wrong. The question is, how best to remove harmful illiberal dictators from such countries.

If the nations of the world cannot bring themselves to define dictatorships and centralized economies as international crimes; if the nations of the world cannot bring themselves to declare a difference between a liberal democracy and a regal state; if the nations of the world cannot bring themselves to act decisively and forcibly against the tyrants which maintain their harmful reign in the face of the strong tide of liberalism and democracy; then war will continue, and the United States will continue to mop up the detritus the rest of the world cannot bear to take responsibility for.

The question is: When will the rest of the world start taking responsibility for the spread of liberty and freedom, and do it in a convincing, rational, and realistic manner, allowing and indeed prescribing the use of force in extreme cases, thus making such matters as the attack of North Korea in fact academic?

David Duff

Henrik Mintis is correct, I believe, in his definition of the wars 'fought' since 1945 but I worry over the implication that certain types of government constitute a "crime" for which the perpetrators must be brought to book.

Oliver complains about the anti-war movement and their 'rhetorical' question: If Iraq, why not Zimbabwe? But I think both of you open yourself to this line of attack by attempting to sweeten the pill of realpolitik with either a coating of morality or legalese.

The only difference between Iraq and Zimbabwe is that the former was likely to have, or make efforts to try and have, WMDs and had demonstrated a ruthless propensity to use them either directly or by proxy against us. For me, that was sufficient reason in itself to attack and as we were able to act without fear of retaliation (unlike the USSR) we were correct so to do. Zimbabwe, on the other hand, poses no such threat and deeply regrettable though it is to see the cruelties inflicted on its people we should not intervene. (In addition there were and still are very good grand-strategic reasons for the projection of American power into the heart of the middle east).

Any beneficial results that have resulted, such as the destruction of torture chambers and the like, should be accepted as, so to speak, the cream on the cake but not in any way as a sufficient justification for the decision to go to war.

I understand, of course, that in the real world, democratic politicians need to appeal to their electorate with a mixture of fear of the threat plus moral righteousness for the 'cause' because most 'ordinary people' (horrid esxpression!) recoil from decisions made on the basis of hard-eyed strategy. But that doesn't mean you and I have to believe it!

I hate to find myself on the side of the anti-war camp but I think it would be fair for them to pose the following question to both of you: If, say, in two years the British army is back from Iraq and up to strength, and assuming that by then the situation in Zimbabwe has reached catastrophic proportions, would either of you favour a policy of armed intervention?
David Duff

David Marks

"If, say, in two years the British army is back from Iraq and up to strength, and assuming that by then the situation in Zimbabwe has reached catastrophic proportions, would either of you favour a policy of armed intervention?"

Cannot the case be made that the case for intervention can be made when there is the confluence of three interests in the same area.

1. Humanitarian need.
2. High potential for threat against the United states.
3. Politcal need to remake the status quo.

In Iraq there was clear humanitarian need, there was a high risk (if not proof) that Saddam was a threat to the United states. Lastly, there was political need to end the status quo of dictatorship in the arab world and to somehow create a somewhat liberal democratic society that could be an alternative to extremism and fundametalism.

David Duff

I will take you points in order:

1. No, in my view that is never a reason to risk the lives of our servicemen quite apart from the fact that it would open the way for our politicians to indulge their private morality at the expense of our soldiers.

2. Yes, as I said above, it constitutes sufficient reason to contemplate war *after* weighing all the facts.

3. I assume you mean 'regime change' and in my view, whilst I admit that sometimes it can seem compelling, it is not a sufficient reason unless allied with #2 above.

Further to #3 above, certain American officials entertain the hope that Iraq will achieve some sort of democratic governance but I hope they are not holding their breath! Never say never, but the chances are slim. However, if somehow they can cobble together a system that is demonstrably better in terms of liberty and economic growth, then indeed Iraq might have a distabilising effect on the countries around them - but not half as strong an effect as the permanent stationing of a huge American army and air force will have!
David Duff


I thought I'd move this over here ... afterall, it's your post we're talking about. Now...

It just gets worse. We've now reached the stage where you have no principled objection to war but you wouldn't support one prosecuted by a President you disapprove of even though it was the only one on offer in the cause of liberating Iraq from Baathist totalitarianism. That is equivalent - morally equivalent, which is to say repugnant and not merely mistaken - to the partisanship of Republicans who wouldn't support the rebuffing of Milosevic because it was done by a Democrat.

My viewpoint has nothing to do with the party of the administraion and it's not about "principled objection to war" (by which I assume you mean pacifism). I'm very much in favor of military action and even war when the time, method, and cause are right. There are lots of pragmatic and moral reasons that the war Bush sold us was a bad idea.

In the name of this war, we've: given cover to the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, badly misled the American public, the Congress, and the world, aggressively taunted our allies, neglected -- sometimes in a 1 to 1 fashion -- the security situation in Afghanistan, diverted resources from the "war on terrorism," suffered from all manner of mission creep, wrongly conflated semi-secular totalitarianism with fanatical religious radicalism, imperiled rather than redefined vauable international institutions, paid off by the hundreds of millions a ruthless dictator in Uzbekistan, and virtually ignored compelling humanitarian situations in the rest of this world.

Someone on Totten's blog asked if I'd support the "liberation" of Iraq by Idi Amin for reward money. Well, of course not. Liberation requires a lot more than slick rhetoric and a big army. I believe we and others will suffer the Bush administration haste, cynicism, and arrogance. We'll see.


I disagree that the time is nigh to declare that "we were wrong" on Iraq's WMD.

As I detail in a post at my blog, we are currently faced with a troubling "antinomy," the poles of which are familiar, though the significance thereof appears lost:

pre-war estimates
current realities on the ground in Iraq.

Those who seize on the present picture from the ISG are in danger of running afoul of "absence of evidence equates to evidence of absence," and don't take the foundations of the pre-war views seriously enough. As Pollack in some measure undertook to do in his Atlantic piece, we need to "explain the appearances."

Those who are unrepentant votaries of the pre-war view are in danger of straining credulity to explain away what's (not) being found, forestalling judgment and concession, even of a provisional character.

In my view the existence of the antinomy and the differing considerations which inform each of its nodes entail proceeding judiciously - especially because last October David Kay reported (as I quote in my posting) certain findings which lend credence to the pre-war view as well as call it into question.

John Thacker

Rarely have I seen someone attempt to make the perfect the enemy of the good as much as Fred Kaplan. Even short of nuclear war, war with the DPRK would mean massive casualties in Seoul and the rest of the ROK, due to the artillery sited in the DMZ. Secondly, the ROK, a US ally, would not only bear the brunt of the casualties, but also opposes such a war.

Saddam should have been deposed because he could be taken out with relatively small loss of life (and possibly even net savings compared to his own killing of Iraq's citizens) and little threat of a larger war, since he was a much despised, cruel dictator who was already a declared enemy. It is completely ridiculous to argue that since eliminating some dictators would take too great of a risk that we should not overthrow those who could be defeated easily and safely.

"harry" manages to be even more typically incoherent in his criticism:
1) If the US upsets an ally, that's bad, no matter what the ally does.
2) If the US stands by an ally that does anything wrong, that's bad.
3) If the US intervenes in a country, that's bad, not matter what's going on there.
4) If the US doesn't intervene in a country where evil things are happening, that's also bad.
5) If the US tries to use diplomacy with an evil regime, that's bad, because it "gives cover" to them.
6) If the US tries to do anything else besides the war on terror, that's bad and diverting attention.
6b) However, the war on terror itself is still worthy of cynical mocking sneer quotes.
7) Apparently calling both the "semi-secular totalitarianism" of Saddam and "fanatical religious radicalism" of the Taliban evil is wrongly conflating them. Perhaps "harry" will tell us which one is evil and which one is merely unfortunate.

"harry" apparently also believes that the US has the unilateral power to completely "redefine" the United Nations, forcing France, Russia, and China to give up their vetoes or always vote the way that the US and UK want. After all, it was the UN itself which had ignored its own resolutions, and the US and UK attempted to convince the Security Council of that. It's not the US and UK's fault that the UN is imperiled in its mission. Strange; I always believed that other nations had their own foreign policy, which they set according to how they see their own self-interest. "harry," OTOH, apparently has this fantastical belief that no other nation actually has its own interest, that the right diplomacy and kind word from the US can bend any nation to its will.

Looks to me like "harry" is the one that's hasty (to criticism the US no matter what it does), cynical (who refuses to acknowledge evil and the need to fight it, prefering cheap moral equivalence), and arrogant. (believing that the US could force other countries to vote differently in the UN, or change their foreign policy with merely a kind word)


Well John, I'd "respond," but, although you've "done" a wonderful job of "ascribing" a whole "host" of "beliefs" to me, I'm not quite sure "what" it "is" you've actually, substantially "taken issue" with in my "post."

Oh "well."

Kevin Morrison

'Not a liberal' - on another occasion, I'd be interested to know how you do classify Christopher Hitchens. I admire his style, but find him unpredictable!


The question of "why not invade" China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia or Zimbabwe is puerile. Knowing what we did know about Cambodia, China and the Soviet Union, the factors existent in Iraq made invasion and occupation an accetable and reasonable risk. Why specifically is due to the gigantic sign in the no fly zones that says "INVADE US PLEASE".

Iraq had all the callings of a swift military victory made up of ethnic majority groups oppressed by an ethnic minority under brutal conditions in addition to a despot that redefines modern idiocy. The conditions in play allowed the threat to be assessed not limited to the destruction of such weapons, but also a removal of the dictorial authority with minimal losses for the military. Were any factors, such as a well known popular movement ready, willing and able to launch a new autonomous government simultaneously assisting in granting intelligence to locate former regime leaders, to be found in China, the USSR or Cambodia, certainly invasions could garner more policy attention?

Kurds in the north, Shiites in the south and Assyrians in the west WERE the factors that determined invasion, occupation and eventual transfer of power. Combine these groups with the estimated 4 million Iraqi ex-patriate community abroad and the invasion option rises on the policy charts.

The 'anti-war'[terrible methodology to describe revolutionaries] crowd goes well beyond the assessment of Saddam Hussein's WMD, human rights violations and ignorance of international agreements. They consistently remind us, and most likely believe, that Saddam Hussein was just another American Puppet. While we know that support for Saddam's government ended with the strike on Hallubjah, to the revolutionary the support never ended. And let us not even begin to take the Arab 'anti-war' view that Hussein slaughtered Kurds and Shiites by request of the American government.

The sickness of the wild conspiracist can be heard, but cannot be ignored. Look no further than Howard Dean's attempt to spike the punch and scurry out of the party with a hint of conspiracy theory internet revelation.

Unrelated, but I too would like to know what political affiliation Oliver would cede to Christopher Hitchens. I'd guess that Fareed Zakariya would draw the 'conservative' label, but what would Hitchens receive?

Bleeding heart conservative

It's time for some new bumper stickers and protest signs:


Replace "Attack Iraq? NO!" with "Attack Saddam? NO!"

Replace "Wage Peace" with "Wage Status Quo" or "Wage Hypocrisy"

John Anderson, RI USA

I don't suppose Harry will re-open this string, but waddahay.
1. "given cover to the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan" which have used that cover to crack down on the inflammatory religious and to lessen the possibility of a Pakistan-India nuclear exchange.
2. "badly misled the American public" by getting the UN to publish 1441 and then asking it to enforce that resolution - which led to M. Chirac in the NYTimes of January 10 2003 being quoted as inalterably opposed to doing so no matter what Saddam did either past or future. Or do you mean by later expanding the WMD argument based on analysis with which every intelligence agency in the world (well, maybe not Iraq's, but we don't really know) agreed?
3. "aggressively taunted our allies" like France (see 2 above), China, Russia, and somewhat Germamy? Allies? Or just non-belligerents? Allies may disagree, but they do not threaten each other.
4. "neglected -- sometimes in a 1 to 1 fashion -- the security situation in Afghanistan"
at the urging of the UN, which practically begged to take over there, and the EU, which said it would handle the UN's military needs.
5. "diverted resources from the 'war on terrorism,'" by temoving a fiscal and political supporter of some of said international terrorism (al Q is not the only group committing terrorism across national boundaries).
6. "suffered from all manner of mission creep": er, what? You mean by scaring Ghaddafi even more than that missile in his palace a while back?
7. "wrongly conflated semi-secular totalitarianism with fanatical religious radicalism" because the results, perhaps excepting WMD, were the same? Taliban refused to cooperate in the WoT until troops showed up - and that was too late. Saddam refused even when troops showed up - and that was even later.
8. "imperiled rather than redefined vauable international institutions" like the UN by asking them to stand by their word: should we redefine it from a place where issues can be aired to a place where only nations which always agree can be members? There is a lot I don't like about the UN, some things I might like to change, but I think "restructing" it goes too far.
9. "paid off by the hundreds of millions a ruthless dictator in Uzbekistan": er, how are you connecting that to the invasion of Iraq? I'm not saying it's a good idea, but I don't quite see the connection.
10. "virtually ignored compelling humanitarian situations in the rest of this world" which if we had no nuke-armed opponents, 200 million military people with the same level of equipment and training as our current forces, and especially if we wanted to convert the whole world to "The United States of The Solar System", we might be able to alleviate to some extent. Great idea, that! Especially the 'virtual' part, did you get that from a computer game? Check out the US foreign aid programs, government and non.

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