Tuesday, October 7, 2003

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The post-war debate about the pre-war justifications

Andrew Sullivan has an excellent post on this topic and on the efforts by all sides to frame the pre-war debate in the manner most favorable to them. The money quote

The casus belli was not proof of Saddam's existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research. Nothing we have discovered after the war has debunked or undermined any of these reasons. And the moral reason for getting rid of an unconscionably evil regime has actually gotten stronger now we see the full extent of his terror-state. But the anti-war left sees a real advantage in stripping down the claims in people's receding memories to ones that were not made but which can now be debunked. It's propaganda, to which the media in particular seems alarmingly prone to parroting. We have tor esist it at every stop - because this war has not yet been won, and the really crucial battle, now as before, is at home.

Go check it out.

posted by Dan on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM


The casus belli was not proof of Saddam's existing weapons, but proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research.

Good heavens, that's pathetic -- that Andrew would type that with a straight face, and that you would endorse that as an "excellent post."

We had the President and his highest officials going on national TV and talking about mushroom clouds. And you think we went to war over incomplete paperwork?

I guess you're getting a head start on things to atone for next Yom Kippur.

But the anti-war left sees a real advantage in stripping down the claims in people's receding memories to ones that were not made but which can now be debunked.

Project much, Andy?

posted by: Swopa on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

I'll agree w/ Swopa that Sullivan's post is not "excellent", and that your endorsement falls below your usual standard.

1. talk about fading memories. shall we forget that for months and months before the invasion, the Bush admin talked about "regime change", not UN compliance. Why in g-d's name should Saddam have cooperated? Considering that he had no WMD and not even a WMD program that's any different from that found in any university in the US, and considering the US gov'ts rhetoric, he did the only thing he could: allow some inspections, and bluff.

2. the war's at home? what the hell does this mean? is sullivan really at war with those in the democratic party that believe that the invasion was ill-advised, unsupported, and a royal waste of blood & treasure? I thought that the war was on "terror", i.e., those who are willing to kill and maim US citizens for the purpose of attacking our way of life.

3. Please compare the statements of Clark and Dean about their commitment to rebuilding Iraq in the context of an international coalition with the statements of Sullivan now, and of Bush, Powell, and Cheney leading up to the war (things like "welcomed as liberators" "war will pay for itself" "we know where the WMD are located). Who, precisely, is more guilty of propaganda?


posted by: FDL on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Yeah my jaw dropped when I read that on AS yesterday. I think the best that can be said is he's MAYBE following the "letter of the law" rather than the intent or spirit. Perhaps in whatever articles that exist on record somewhere *only* past violations and research were listed, but that sure as heck wasn't what was coming across the airwaves. And they are not that inept on getting the message they want out to the people.

The administration most certainly projected the case as impending danger, not past misdeeds as the reason for going. After all, he'd been violating resolutions for YEARS, not months. And he didn't start violating them 9/11/2001 either.

AS is just as guilty as most in using the parts of evidence that support his position. Sometimes embarassingly so.

posted by: Todd G on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.

-- George W. Bush, President
Address to the Nation, 3/17/2003

There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And . . . as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.

-- General Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief, Central Command
Press Conference, 3/22/2003

One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.

-- Victoria Clarke, Pentagon Spokeswoman
Press Briefing, 3/22/2003

We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

-- Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense
ABC Interview, 3/30/2003

But make no mistake -- as I said earlier -- we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about.

-- Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Press Briefing, 4/10/2003

(Thanks to billmon and Lunaville for the research.)

posted by: Swopa on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

The casus belli surely involved much more than Iraq being in violation of SC resolutions. It included at least the assertion that Iraq provided an imminent threat and could not be deterred by alternative means. Moreover, it involved the claim that the U.S. had specific information on exactly how and where WMD were produced (Powell's Powerpoint). Evidence for neither of these propositions has been provided. This morning on NPR, Scott Sagan made an excellent case that the Iraqi intervention gives preemptive war a bad name: i.e. it will be much harder to justify for any future President.

posted by: zaoem on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Everyone else has said it, so I guess I don't have to. But I will anyway.

What Sully says is all very nice, but the fact remains that it's not what the administration said. They said Saddam actually had WMD, lots of it, that was ready for use in a war. That has turned out not to be the case. You just can't erase that from history.

And as for UN resolutions, that's just a horrible argument and everyone should stay very, very far away from it. If it's truly violation of UN resolutions that's at issue, then obviously it's up to the UN to approve action.

I'm really tired of the revisionist history. I wasn't a huge opponent of the war, but I'm not so senile that I've forgotten what the arguments for it were. The administration may have chosen the WMD argument for "bureaucratic reasons," but that's the argument they made and Sully can't change that.

posted by: Kevin Drum on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

The casus belli was [...] proof of his refusal to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors or account fully for his WMD research.

don't go there Daniel. not only is such proof a chimera, but that's exactly the casus belli that would make it a war crime. you do know that the UN charter explicitly forbids that sort of thing, right? and you do know that UNSCR 1440 explicitly doesn't provide authorization for military action (at least per the Brits, whom we seem to trust implicitly on any matters pertaining to WMD), right?

remember how there was a lot of debate about legality back then? remember the UNSC resolution that was gonna get voted on "regardless of whip count"? if that had passed, an invasion woulda been legal...

remember rule of law?

posted by: radish on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

all the above say it well - your recommendation here is so below your usual standard it is perplexing.

i traded several emails with andrew leading up to the war; his were all focused on "saddam's WMD" as the solid answer to all my arguments to put the brakes on. he said it, himself, over and over in these emails: WMD, WMD, WMD. now andrew conveniently blames "the left" for merely pointing out what he and his prez emphasized to justify invasion. it doesn't wash, and it's dishonest. i don't know what else to call it.

posted by: mark on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

You failed to repent. Still spreading the same BS. I started reading your blog because there was a rumor that you were not intellectually dishonest. The rumor has proved false.

posted by: elliottg on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Swopa...to further explain your documentation:


this May 29, 2003 post gives over 25 quotes from the administration and neocons showing the evolution of the WMD argument.

But more to the point, I, like many of my moderate ilk, was no against the war, per se. I was, however; desirerous that the adminstration take the time necessary to build SIGNIFICANT mult-lateral response to a course of action designed to thoroughly minimize Hussain's ability to harm the US. The rhetoric of my President won me over and I argreed the immediate actionwas required no matter the cost.

I feel violated as if lied to by a sweet heart. Further, I can't help but wonder how many American lives were disrupted or ended due to the ensuing nearly unilateral military action and occupation. How much treasure is being needlessly spent?

That was my pre-war debate, that is our post war reality. Planned or not, we were deceived. There will be an accounting.

posted by: Keith G on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Sullivan specializes in retrofitting past policy and pronouncements to fit the current fact cycle. You can dance around it all you want, but WMD absolutely was the sales pitch for the war. In addition, the Administration repeatedly painted that threat as being imminent and massive. The imminence was amplified by Powell's speech, Rice's comments, and numerous stories and briefings. The threat of nuclear terrorism was used to amplify the level of the threat.

It is a simple exercise to simply visit the White House site, peruse the speeches and briefings, and locate pronouncements that tie Hussein to 9/11, and play up the threat he posed. They're all there, right from the beginning. There is no need to go to any other source.

Like it or not, Bush went into this war with a weak hand, and a strong bluff. He bet he could locate WMD; that he would be able to justify, after the fact, his actions.

Now that the reality doesn't match up to the sales job, his supporters are frantically misdirecting and revising.

The not-so-hidden subtext before the war was that Bush KNEW, somehow, about a very real threat that Hussein represented...that there was classified information that he couldn't reveal that gave him a certainty that we in the public sphere could not share, because in our sphere the evidence did not exist.

"Continuation of the '91 war" arguments are foolish. Ask this simple question: If 9/11 had not happened, would Bush have invaded? Or would he have simply let time take its course.

posted by: Ross Judson on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

This is just sad.

posted by: John on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

I think this Economist blurb sums it up well:

The response of some cynics is that governments are always economical with the actualité, especially when selling a controversial policy—and the Iraq war, a war of choice, fought in spite of much of the world's disapproval, was an especially hard sell. The reverse is true: the standards of accuracy and sobriety should have been all the more scrupulous because of the controversy, and because so many lives were at stake. The war, we still think, was justified. But in making the case for it, Mr Bush and Mr Blair did not play straight with their people.

http://economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=2101360 (subscription)

posted by: Todd G on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Tom Friedman—a supporter of war against Iraq now as then— had a much more cogent take on this. [Link, no longer free.]

Friedman admitted that the war in Iraq was a war of choice, but the Administration sold it as a war of necessity. (They also underestimated the time and expense required.) Swopa's quotes above are just a small sampling of the terrifying scenarios used in the sales pitch.

We estimate that once Iraq acquires fissile material -- whether from a foreign source or by securing the materials to build an indigenous fissile material capability -- it could fabricate a nuclear weapon within one year.

John Bolton, 11/1/2002
This was followed, of course, by the completely untrue claim that Iraq was attempting to acquire fissile material from Niger.

And as recently as last month, Vice President Cheney was attempting to link Iraq to the justified, universally popular war on Al Qaeda. His own boss, finally asked point-blank, had to shoot him down, not that he had been above insinuating such a connection by constant rhetorical juxtaposition of Saddam and Osama.

The truth is, the American public would probably not have supported George and Dick's Excellent Adventure merely to back up UN inspections that worked; inspections which, one must add, we derided as incompetent. Defiance of UN resolutions is hardly a cause for preemptive war (see under: Israel). And since it's clear the timing of this war had nothing to do with imminent nuclear attack, perhaps Teddy Kennedy is on to something when he notes how it split the Democratic Party and rallied the Republican base just in time for the midterm elections.

Here's the take of another undeservedly respected right-wing pundit who hasn't owned up to his (and his Administration's) dreadful blunder:

Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We've had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven't found any, we will have a credibility problem. I don't have any doubt that we will locate them. I think it takes time. They've obviously been deeply hidden, and it will require that we get the information from people who know where they are.

Charles Krauthammer, 4/22/03; emphasis added; note date is over five months ago.
The Administration staked its credibility on finding WMD. Within the United States, they have some hope that enough liberal-bashing from their friends at Fox News will fool enough of the public to insure re-election, but in the rest of the world our government are bluffeurs caught pants-down.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

I have to chime in with all the above posts on why Andrew Sullivan is wrong, wrong, wrong--and rapidly becoming pathetic. Didn't he used to be good? Why the total sellout? And why is this blog so unaware of the lead-up to the war and the arguments advanced to support it?

posted by: Michael Ham on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

the preponderance of the above evidence suggests to me that AS, as seems to be his general trend, is on crack.

now i have a lot of respect for m. drezner, but come on, wake up. they said they knew where they were, and bragged that they'd be saying "i told you so."

better endorsements next time, please.

posted by: praktike on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

You clearly have left a good number of people anywhere from stunned to perplexed with your endorsement of AS' bizarre attempt to rewrite the record (as reported by numerous commenters on this thread). Care to clarify your thinking about this?

posted by: Travis on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


Did Sullivan take over your blog Dan?

What's going on?

That a hack like AS write what he does is no surprise.

But that you endorse it? I mean you are a professor of Pol Sci at Chicago for Heaven's sake!

What do you mean the WMDs were not the issue? Do we really need to cut and paste for the one millionth time all the Bush administration quotes that directly contradict that?

posted by: GT on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

How disappointing to see this on my first visit to your much lauded blog.

Look, we were scared into going to war. Now he can;t find the weapons and wants another $600 million to justify this adventure.

Tina Fey put it perfectly on Saturday Night Live.

Things Bush cannot find. The source of the White House leaks. Osama Bin Laden. Saddam Hussein. A link between Osama Bin Laden and Sadaam Hussein. Weapons of Mass destruction. And his own ass with two hands a flashlight.

posted by: Maccabee on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

I agree with Sullivan's general thrust that the lefties are trying to rewrite history, but this is also more chickens coming home to roost. I said back in the fall of 2001 that the anthrax used on us was highly likely of Iraqi origin, and Laurie Mylroie's new book, _Bush Versus The Beltway_, explains the reasons why in some detail.

The short form is that the weaponization process used to produce the 2001 anthrax was not known to any of the biological warfare experts of the US, UK and Russia. Development of a new anthrax weaponization process requires an industrial scale research & development effort. Producing the stuff once the weaponization process is known is much easier than developing the process in the first place.

Ergo, the 2001 anthrax was produced by a process developed in some country other than the US, UK and Russia/USSR. That process _could not_ not have been developed by a small group or mad scientist as the FBI wants us to believe. It was developed by a foreign government. Note that the U.S. government, with all its resources, has not been able to reverse engineer this process.

Iraq is known to have had an anthrax weaponization R&D program. It and North Korea are the two primary suspects for development (not necessarily production) of the anthrax powder used on us in 2001, though China is a possibility.

The cutaneous anthrax lesion diagnosed on one of the 9/11 hijackers is reasonable circumstantial evidence that they were responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks. Al Qaeda had a working relationship with Iraq, but not North Korea or China. Mylroie's book explains the other possible connections.

The U.S. government cut some sizable contracts in the summer and fall of 2002 to prepare tent cities capable of housing millions of people. This was reasonable circumstantial evidence of a significant federal pucker factor concerning a possible major anthrax attack anticipated for the spring of 2003. I used to be in civil defense and pay attention to such things.

The Bush Administration's failure to purge & reorganize the FBI and CIA, whose incompetence was largely responsible for 9/11, prevented the Administration from presenting the real WMD threat Iraq posed to us.

A good argument could be made that it was unwise to make that case at the time, but the Bush Administration couldn't have done so given its refusal to address the institutional failings of the FBI and CIA. IMO President Bush chose not to do so for the same reason that Clinton kept Admiral Kelso on as Chief of Naval Operations after Tailhook - the personal loyalty of the institutions' chiefs to the new Administrations, based on the chiefs' justifiable fear of being canned for obvious incompetence, was deemed more important than the insitutions' effectiveness in national security.

Mr. Drezner is quite familiar with the latter issue given his favorable references to Amy Zegart and her book, _Flawed by Design_.

BTW, Tenet's inability to deliver on the implied promise of his loyalty, as shown by the Wilson/Plame fuss, indicates he will be gone fairly soon. The next CIA Director's chief job will be to make certain that the CIA cannot pose further political threats to the Bush Administration.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Funny how we can't find that anthrax even now that we are in Iraq. Mylroie is a crank best known for her speculation Saddam was the Oklahoma City bombing for which Timothy McVeigh was executed.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

. . . the anthrax used on us was highly likely of Iraqi origin, and Laurie Mylroie's new book, _Bush Versus The Beltway_, explains the reasons why in some detail.

Tom H.,

Please cut out the middleman next time and just explain to us how all of the Bush administration's policies are correct according to the works of Lewis Carroll.

posted by: Swopa on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

"The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow." -- Bill Clinton in 1998

Let me see if I get this right. George Bush lied to get us into a war, and Bill Clinton was mistaken, but George Bush should have known that. Is that how it works, boys?

posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

You know, I was so disgusted by Sullivan's statement I didn't make to the the part where we agree.

[B]ecause this war has not yet been won, and the really crucial battle, now as before, is at home.
How candid, to admit that Iraq, and perhaps even Al Qaeda has always been a sideshow to the real war, the war against everything decent and democratic and honest in our political system.

[Aside on Bill Clinton: Don't forget that in 1998 Clinton and Blair bombed the heck out of Iraq, and apparently destroyed its CW capabilities. So statements before that raid should be treated differently from statements after.]

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

As a matter of fact, yes.

Sending between 100,000-200,00 Americans halfway around the world to risk their lives for a year (and likely more) demands a significantly higher level of confidence in the evidence -- and a significantly higher level of scrutiny of that evidence -- before you send them.

Were you under the impression that was a difficult question, Mr. Bowler?

posted by: Swopa on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

And the moral reason for getting rid of an unconscionably evil regime has actually gotten stronger now we see the full extent of his terror-state.

That would explain our Uzbekistan policy then.

posted by: James Emerson on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Note the usual lefty straw man game here. They won't address the facts because they can't, and instead try to distract attention by attacking something else.

There is no value to their posts. They pretend that repeating something false makes it true.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

TH: Did you actually read any of the preceding posts? Or did you just hop in with your RW boilerplate and hop back out again?

'Coz, baby o baby, it's ain't "the Lefties" who keep trying to repeat something over and over again to make it true when it ain't.

What's being quoted here, ad nauseum, are the lies *The Bush Admin* and its clacque told, and kept telling, and kept telling some more, until they had frightened a nation into buying a bait-&-switch war. One that's cost, oh, 330 American lives so far? More than half that number killed ever sine President FlyBoy smirked into the camera and dared Iraqi guerillas to "Bring it on!"?

(Where does the RW *get* these clowns?)

posted by: SurelyYouJest on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Note the usual lefty straw man game here. They won't address the facts because they can't . . .

Why should we bother, when the Defense Intelligence Agency has already done it for us:

A lieutenant-colonel in the DIA who specialized in terrorism and the Muslim world also ridiculed the claims connecting Iraq and al-Qaeda, adding that administration officials relied on evidence provided by Laurie Mylroie in her book The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge. "From her book," he said, "It was evident she hadn't spent one day in the Middle East but she was close with Wolfowitz and as a result we had a guy on staff [at the DIA] whose job for two years was to debunk her allegations."

posted by: Swopa on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

There is no value to their posts. They pretend that repeating something false makes it true.

Tom, you've got it mixed up. It's Bush and Co (and their cohorts) who repeat and reference lies as if repetition could make lies truth.

What facts do you claim that the "lefties" on this thread are not addressing?

What "straw man" do you claim that the "lefties" on this thread have set up?

posted by: Jesurgislac on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

The lefties here have no idea what great straight men they are. They substantiate Sullivan's charges.

Note also that those zealots completely missed the red meat I threw them about the Bush Administration and the CIA. They can't see anything, even matters well within their narrow worldview, unless it is packaged in terms which are familiar to them.

It's groupthink all the way. Repetition is their form of argument.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Troll alert. Completely worthless waste of time alert.

Anyway, back to the main course....

posted by: SurelyYouJest on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Tom Holsinger writes: " Mylroie's book explains the other possible connections."

Mylroie is a kook, 100% gold leaf hatted kook.

And I half suspect she's Wolfowitz in drag. Okay, maybe not, but there's a resemblance. Maybe her maiden name is Wolfowitz.

posted by: Jon h on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

"lefty skeptic" at the same discussion on OSTB had the good sense to point out what radish alluded to above, namely that I grant that Saddam's refusal to comply with the terms of the UN ceasefire was sufficient grounds for UN action against Iraq. I grant this is often overlooked by folks on my side of the aisle. However, the US did act without the blessing of the UN. So the sentence of Sullivan's starting with "Technically" isn't right, either, since the war was not a UN action (and since we are being technical here).

that said Maccabee and eliottg, please continue having faith in Dr. Drezner. He may stumble at times, but he makes up for it in the long run IMO.

posted by: markus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Which falsehood do we keep repeating? That we didn't find any WMD? [I think that's enough feeding the troll.]

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear all,

You are unfortunately correct. Hawks on all ends of the spectrum are upset about the prewar intelligence sell. Representative Murtha (D) who is a super-hawk notoriously said recently that he'd been deceived by the WH spin. On the Republican side the head of the House Intelligence Committee signed a letter stating that the prewar intelligence was essentially bogus.

What the Bush Admin did was indefensible. Repeat: Indefensible. It destroyed US credibility at home and abroad for years to come. Who now can take the Admin line on NK or Iran with a straight face? Even if it is 100% true, we can't sell it.

This pointlessly stupid attempt to spin the intelligence issue by my fellow Repubs ignores the real damage this issue has done to our National Security. It imagines if they can sell the public their version of events, all will be made well. This is idiocy and nuts.

The National Security of the United States is not well served by pretending that the intelligence presentation wasn't a load a bollocks. It was.

Dan if you are listening up there from on high, get over your denial. Andrew Sullivan may have entered the realm of intellectual dishonesty, don't sell out yours.

When Clinton was still around, Conservatives including me had fun jeering at Lefties, *especially* the NOW crowd, about how they should just admit that Clinton perjured himself. He did. He lied in a legal proceeding, and all that stupid dancing about how it wasn't technically perjury was stupid. It was perjury. He deserved to have the articles of Impeachment sent up to the Senate, though the Senate did the right thing by not finding him guilty of a high crime against the State.

Now am I going to hear from my own side that afterall that *bullshit* about WMD that we technically didn't deceive the American people - cause what? David Kay found a ten year old single vial of poison?

BULLSHIT. There was deception. Pure and simple. This coming from an Admin that prided itself on trying to set a higher standard for honesty and integrity is bogus.

Pretending that ain't so is just selling out. Remember that Dan. When you sell out, even if you win you lose.

posted by: Oldman on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

The large majority of those commenting here are in an entirely different informational universe than the one I'm in. I've lived in Europe for the past six years. My time as a student here ended in the fall of 2001 but I stayed here to be with my companion, to whom I'm now married. There was a rather long gap there in which I couldn't work.

At the same time I was shocked and deeply disturbed by the European reactions to 9/11, especially those of my friends and acquaintances. I decided to try to do something about it. For the past two years I've been working on a book, and I also organized a sort of grassroots thinktank here. I've been reading lots of history and foreign policy journals and newspapers from five continents, and also other stuff I think can help illuminate certain important aspects.

I made a choice several years ago not to be involved in politics, although I had some definite positions: fierce opposition to capital punishment, opposition to the war on drugs, support for universal health insurance (such as I've got over here), support for gay marriage and adoption rights, and a curtailment of corporate power and influence in politics (and other areas of life). I preferred to spend my time on things I life: film, music, theater, travel.
But for the past two years and for some time to come I've been living and breathing world politics, even though since having become a permanent resident of the EU a few months ago I've been working off and on.

It was clear to me by the end of 2001 that an invasion of Iraq was nearly inevitable. It would seem that the final decision was made in July of 2002 and, indeed, I remember reading sometime early in the fall of that year that Rice had confirmed this at the time to somebody who was a source for that article.

Soon after 9/11 Rumsfeld quoted that famous bit from Churchill about how, in war, truth is so precious that it must be guarded by a [what's the word?] of lies.

To me it is clear that Iraqi WMDs were never the major issue, although it was a genuine factor.

The major factors were strategic. Having substantial forces in the heart of the middle east allows us to pressure the other regimes which have not changed their ways. And put some serious pressure on Syria immediately after the fall of the Ba'athist regime, with considerable results. Interesting stuff is going on vis-a-vis Iran right now and there seems to be a real possibility that we're going to strike a deal with them, even if it's never made public. We got our military forces out of Saudi at a moment when it would not constitute a show of weakness (and thus invite further attacks) and are now in a position to pressure the Saudis directly and also are working at minimizing the enormous power they have over us thanks to the oil weapon. (But are the Bushies too tight with their friends and business partners there? I'm an agnostic on that and time will tell, but even so we're now in a position to deal more effectively when there's a new US administration.)

Some say that more time should have been given to build up a more multilateral approach. That idea is checkmated by reality. You lot do not understand what is happening in Europe. Domestic politics and the core of Europe's perception of their own interests ensured that that would be impossible. At any rate, 21 European governments were with us, 6 against, and 6 neutral. 9/11 immediately triggered a wave of anti-Americanism that only continued to swell. The university town where I live is full of signs in the windows of houses and shops which read (in translation) "we want no war under any circumstances."

Also it is very difficult to imagine going to war this winter/spring instead of last, given that we're now in an election cycle.

There were very good reasons for the Bush administration not to be open about the more fundamental reasons. The basic idea is to transform the Middle-East. This springs from a sort of root-cause analysis which holds that autocracy and despotism there causes opposition movements to organize around the Islamists, the Salafists, and their ilk. Making the region more free and prosperous is seen as a means to drain support away from these movements. Also, our presence as the major power in the region allows us to wield sticks with which to coerce cooperation on intelligence matters and so forth.

To make this case publically would have backed these regimes into a corner and made it more difficult for them to effect genuine changes. Also in the European gestalt there is a strong bias towards legalism. WMD, in light of past UN resolutions, was seen as the issue most likely to 'work' with them. Obviously the Bush administration misread the European core, but those critics of the administration who do not understand how perfidious French behavior actually was and how Soviet the mentality here has become are making an even more fundamental misreading. And the media here are even worse than Fox. I'm not kidding. Worse than Fox.

I always thought Sullivan was stupid to think it was about WMDs, WMDs, WMDs.

But in another sense, it was. The jihadi-Salafists have been open about their religious duty to obtain WMDs and to use them. And if they get them we can't really defend against it. The key is the source, and so far the only sources are nation states. Pakistan is the likeliest source, along with the former Soviet Union. I never thought it likely that Saddam would give the bomb to AQ if he got it, although it's also worth thinking about how, even if there are no contacts whatsoever, the mere coincidence of interests of those two parties makes it plausible. But insofar as WMD was the issue I think that point was that Iraq was "doable," and would make the point that we're serious about countering proliferation in ganster regimes and theocracies.

And then there is the moral issue, and the debt we incurred by our despicable betrayal in the immediate aftermath of Gulf War I, and the importance of ensuring that the Kurdish area (one of the best consequences of US foreign policy over the last decade) would remain autonomous: the containment regime was breaking down and sooner or later Saddam or his successor would have been liable to reassert dictatorial control.

Oh yes, and there's the issue of making a big psychological impact, but of course we can't say that kind of thing in public.

It seems to me that the spirit of democracy does not mean you should wait for your leader to spoonfeed you and then you decide to support or oppose or stay out of it. If you'd been curious about the real issues, you would have seen that the public case was, shall we say, a diplomatic one, and if you thought straight talk would be better you could have done it yourself.

I don't buy the notion that this was Bush's war, or that of the neocons. The case laid out by Kenneth Pollock certainly isn't, and I found it compelling even though it was mostly written in a pre-9/11 world.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear TM,

Blame it on the public, eh? I agree with your thoughtful analysis. The reasons you listed probably were the "real" reasons without a doubt why Bush et al. went to war.

However there's one tiny little problem with your analysis. Most Americans would not have and do not support a war on those grounds. That and it isn't working particularly well.

When push came to shove, I don't think all that many Americans were terribly fooled by all the fuss about WMD. However, the POTUS said "trust me me on this one, I know what I'm doing."

So most Americans did. Well, as it turns out he didn't know what he was doing. That's the real reason why everyone is generally upset. The absurd lack of any WMD is just the symbol of what's going on. It makes the American people think well if he didn't even get that right, what else has he been wrong about?

posted by: Oldman on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Didn't any of you go over to cia.gov and read the Kay report? or are you all just relying on the press summaries and the politician spinning? Careful with the "Bush lied" stuff until all the facts are in. In any event, we can't run foreign policy based on evidence we would have available in our courts of law (which isn't that great of a set of standards anyway -- preponderance of the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt). There has to be an extremely heavy weight given to considering a foreign leader's intentions (especially a dictator's) where the resources of an entire country (even one as f**'d up as pre-war Iraqi) can be single-mindedly bent to the leader's will. After you read the Kay report, I'd like to hear why or how Sadaam didn't have the requisite intention to get WMD and use them to project his power in the region and even the world, especially considering that sanctions were realistically going to be removed in a short period of time -- and face it removal of sanctions would have been the sole result of US inaction in 2003. Just how or why was Sadaam not going to "get even" with the US at his time and choosing? Should the US have waited until Sadaam could have put up a stiffer (nuclear) defense? Please read the Kay report, get your facts straight on (or just get the facts about)what's been revealed in Iraq to date and cool it with the histrionic posts.

posted by: Peter on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

The degree of deception involved in the lead-up to this war is not nearly as great as Roosevelt's deception in seeking to maneuver the US into WWII, and indeed the actions of his administration were illegal under the neutrality act. Yet I presume that most of us would endorse it nonetheless, post facto.

Also it is worth pointing out that other intelligence agencies also believed that Saddam would have the bomb within the few years (the Germans, for example). And why would Saddam have behaved as he did if he had nothing to hide?

And remember that we went to the UN largely because Tony Blair insisted on it, which meant that the case we were making necessarily had to accomodate itself to legalistic concerns.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

The absurd lack of any WMD is just the symbol of what's going on. It makes the American people think well if he didn't even get that right, what else has he been wrong about?

This is a great point, and it's underscored by the fact that the greatest damage done to Bush's popularity wasn't anything the Democrats or the media did -- it was the televised speech he gave in September, when he gave Americans the $87 billion bill for postwar Iraq, but no game plan for how we were going to proceed.

IMO, a lot of people lost faith in Bush's competence right then.

posted by: Swopa on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

SWopa - Since when pre-war did we in the US not know that Iraq was going to cost us bundles of cash? What I find amazing is that a majority of Americans still support Bush's policies even after we are told it's another $87 million.

posted by: Peter on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


I'm not sure it's quite a great point, but it's a good one. However, I don't think that Bush's popularity is important as such, nor is it important whether or not he is re-elected. What is important is how things develop, and I say that from an internationalist point of view. I'm more concerned about the failures of the authorities in Iraq to communicate clearly with the Iraqis than with Bush's failure to communicate the strategic issues to the American public. And I'm more concerned about the enormous misperceptions about what we are doing that prevail in Europe. It seems to me that the democratic thing to do would be to figure out the underlying issues, describe it honestly, and then work to get the word out.

But I disagree about the $87 billion: we have an enormous obligation both in virtue of our policies on Iraq from the end of the Gulf War to the present. And I'm not so sure that not having a plan is a serious issue. See, for example, this:


Here's an interesting analysis on the issue of perception and deception:

U.S. Strategy: Perception vs. Deception
Jul 21, 2003


The Bush administration's continued unwillingness to enunciate a coherent picture of the strategy behind the war against al Qaeda -- which explains the war in Iraq -- could produce a dangerous domino effect. Lurking in the shadows is the not fully articulated perception that the Iraq war not only began in deception but that planning for the Iraq war was incompetent -- a perception driven by the realization that the United States is engaged in a long-term occupation and guerrilla war in Iraq, and the belief that the United States neither expected nor was prepared for this. Ultimately, this perception could erode Bush's support base, cost him the presidency and, most seriously, lead to defeat in the war against al Qaeda.


We keep waiting for the moment when Iraq does not constitute the major global event of the week. We clearly are not there yet. In Iraq, the reality is fairly stable. The major offensive by the guerrillas forecast by both U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and what seemed to be a spokesman for al Qaeda last weekend did not materialize. The guerrillas tried to shoot down a C-130 coming into Baghdad International Airport, and that was a significant escalation, but they missed -- and it was only a single act. Casualties continue to mount, but with the dead averaging at just more than 10 per week, it has not come close to reaching a decisive level.
The deterioration of support in Washington and London is not yet decisive. Support for U.S. President George W. Bush sank from a percentage in the high 70s in the wake of the war, to just more than 50 percent in the past 10 days. But as we read the successive polls, the slump that hit when the WMD issue came to the fore -- along with the realization that the United States was dealing with a guerrilla movement -- has not accelerated. It slumped and held. Meanwhile, London headlines have focused on the apparent suicide of weapons expert David Kelly, the probable source for a BBC story about British Prime Minister Tony Blair's manipulation of intelligence data. It is unclear whether these reports have had an impact on public opinion.
However, the current issue is not public opinion. Lurking behind this issue is the not fully articulated perception that the Iraq war not only began in deception but that planning for the Iraq war was incompetent -- a perception driven by the realization that the United States is engaged in a long-term occupation and guerrilla war in Iraq, and the belief that the United States in particular was neither expecting nor prepared for this.
A cartoon republished in the New York Times News of the Week section by Mike Smith of the Las Vegas Sun sums up this perception. A general, holding a paper titled "Guerrilla War In Iraq," says to a table full of generals, "We need to switch to Plan B." Another general responds, "There was a Plan A?" The media loves the trivial and can't grasp the significant. If the United States fabricated evidence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as critics are claiming, the question is not whether it did so. The question is: Why did it do so? In other words, why was invading Iraq important enough to lie about -- if indeed it was a lie, which is far from clear. The emerging perception is that there was no Plan A and there is no Plan B -- that the decision to invade was arbitrary and that the lying was therefore gratuitous.
In other words, the Bush administration has a four-part public relations problem:
1. The perception that it lied about weapons of mass destruction
2. The perception that it had no strategic reason for invading Iraq
3. The perception that it was unprepared for the guerrilla war
4. The perception that it is at a loss for what to do next
As we argued last week, lying in foreign policy does not bother the American public. From Woodrow Wilson's "too proud to fight" slogan in the 1916 presidential campaign, to Franklin D. Roosevelt's war planning with the British while publicly denying such plans, to John F. Kennedy claiming that the United States had nothing to do with the Bay of Pigs, what bothers the American public is the idea that the lying is not designed to hide the strategy, but to hide the fact that there is no strategy.
The media are clever. The public is smart. The media have the ability to generate intellectual mayhem within Washington. What should be troubling for Bush is that, as we review the local papers this past weekend, the deepest concern creeping into letters to the editor is that there is no underlying strategy, no point to it -- and no exit. Bush clearly retains a massive support base that is not, as we have said, continuing to erode. The media's fixation on "what did he know and when did he know it" will not erode it by itself, but the administration's continued unwillingness to reveal a strategy behind the war on al Qaeda likely will.
The core problem the United States has had in enunciating a strategy rests on this: Since Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda has not carried out a strategic operation. It has carried out a series of tactical operations -- Bali, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca and so on -- but it has not struck again at the United States in an operation of the magnitude of Sept. 11. The operations outside the United States are not, by themselves, sufficient to justify the global war the United States is waging. Preventing another Sept. 11 is worth the effort. However, as time passes, the perception -- if not the reality -- grows that Sept. 11 was al Qaeda's best and only shot at the United States. If that is true, then the level of effort we have seen on a global basis -- including the invasion of Iraq and certainly the continued occupation of Iraq in the face of insurrection -- simply isn't worth it. Or put differently, the United States is fighting an illusion and exhausting resources in the process.
The mere assertion of the threat will work if Bush and his advisers have a pristine record of honesty with the public. At the point where the public has reason to doubt the word of the president on anything concerning the war, it will affect his ability to be authoritative on anything concerning the war. Moreover, the president's basis for information on al Qaeda's intentions and capabilities rests with confidence in the quality of intelligence he is getting. The current crisis over who failed to identify the forgery is trivial. However, it melds into two other serious intelligence crises. First, did the intelligence community fail in its analysis of Iraqi WMD? Second, and more serious in our view, did the intelligence community fail to understand former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's war plan and, therefore, fail to understand that the fall of Baghdad was not the end of the war but the beginning of the guerrilla phase?
Reasonable arguments can be made to justify each of these failures. However, at the end of the day, if the CIA did not know about the forgery, did not understand the WMD situation in Iraq and did not anticipate the guerrilla war, then why should the public believe it regarding the on-going threat of al Qaeda? Pushing the argument further, if the intelligence community did in fact know about each of these things and the president chose to ignore them, then why should the public believe Bush when he talks about al Qaeda?
Bush cannot afford a crisis in the intelligence community or in the public perception of his use of intelligence. More than any of the other world wars in which the United States has participated, this is an intelligence war. Al Qaeda does not have a geographical locus. It does not have a clean organizational chart. It is as much an idea as an organization. Everything that followed Sept. 11 has depended on the public's confidence in its intelligence community. If that confidence is destroyed, then everything else said about al Qaeda -- including that it is an ongoing threat that justifies a global war -- becomes subject to debate.
If the CIA cannot be trusted, then the president can't be trusted. If the president can't be trusted, then the urgency of the war cannot be trusted. If the urgency of the war can't be trusted, then the massive exertion being demanded of the U.S. military and public cannot be justified. Thus, having CIA Director George Tenet fall on his sword and accept responsibility for the 16 words in the President's speech might make a lot of sense inside the beltway, but it is an act of breathtaking recklessness in the rest of the country. Even if he were responsible -- which we regard as pretty dubious -- the White House does not seem to understand that destroying the credibility of the CIA is the same thing as destroying the war effort. The entire war effort is based on the public's trust of the CIA's portrayal of the ongoing threat from al Qaeda. If the CIA isn't to be trusted, why should anyone believe that al Qaeda is a threat?
This self-destructive behavior by the Bush administration is not at all confined to undermining the credibility of the CIA. Rumsfeld's incomprehensible behavior regarding the guerrilla war in Iraq was another axis of self-destruction. Back in May, any reasonable observer of the situation in Iraq -- including Stratfor -- saw that there was an organized guerrilla war under way. However, Rumsfeld, as late as June 30, not only continued to deny the obvious, but actually hurled contempt at anyone who said it was a guerrilla war. Rumsfeld's obstinate refusal to acknowledge what was obvious to everyone was the sort of behavior designed to undermine confidence in U.S. strategy by both the public and the troops in the field. Rumsfeld kept arguing that this was not Vietnam, which was certainly true, except in the sense that Rumsfeld was behaving like Robert McNamara. As in Vietnam -- and this is the only comparison there is between it and Iraq -- the behavior of the leadership made even supporters of the war and the troops in the field feel that there was no strategy.
Napoleon once said, "In battle, the morale is to the material as 2 is to 1." Maintaining the morale of one's forces depends on maintaining confidence in the military and political commanders. When forces are killing U.S. troops -- forces that the defense secretary dismisses -- the only conclusion the troops can draw is that either they are not very good soldiers, since they can't stop them, or that the defense secretary has taken leave of his senses. Either way, it undermines morale, increasing the need for the material. It is militarily inefficient to tell self-evident lies to troops.
Similarly, the United States is fighting a war against a barely visible force that cannot be seen by the naked eye, but only by the esoteric tools of the intelligence community. Making the head of that community appear to be a liar or a fool might make good sense in Washington, but it undermines trust in the one institution in which trust is essential if the war is to be prosecuted. It is not casualties that undermine public morale. It is the reasonable belief that if the CIA is incompetent, then neither the justification for the war nor the strategy driving the war can be trusted.
Bush has created a crisis. It is far from a fatal crisis, but it is a crisis that requires a radical readjustment in approach. The public explanation of the war and the reality of the war must come into alignment. Stratfor has extensively chronicled the underlying strategy of the war, and we will not repeat it here. That strategy has never been enunciated publicly. The connection between the war against al Qaeda, the Iraq campaign and future actions throughout the world never has been laid out in a conceptual framework. This is a complex war. It does not reduce itself to the simple dictum of Desert Storm enunciated by Secretary of State Colin Powell: First we will cut off the enemy, then we will surround the enemy, then we will kill the enemy. That was a good line and truly reflected the solution.
This war does not reduce to one-liners. However, there is a threat and there is a strategy. WMD make wonderful one-liners and they are not altogether irrelevant. But that is not what the war against Iraq was about, it is not the reason for fighting a guerrilla war and it is certainly only part of the broader war. The most dangerous thing Bush can do from his standpoint is to continue to play a bad hand rather than endure the pain of having to throw it in and reshuffle the deck. However, it will be easier to explain the real force driving U.S. strategy than to allow his presidency to degenerate into an argument of who forged a letter and whether he knew it.
The basic strategy behind a war always has been publicly discussed. In World War II, after Dec. 7 and the German declaration of war, the basic outlines of the war plan were widely discussed in the media -- in spite of censorship. Everyone knew the Germany First strategy, the goal of landing in France at some point, the purpose of the bombing campaign, the nature of island hopping. No one expected to know the landing site in France or the next island to be invaded in the Pacific, but everyone understood the core strategy.
This is a much more complex war. That increases -- not decreases -- the need for strategic clarity among the public and the troops. The United States is not randomly in Iraq, and it is not there because Hussein was a butcher or because he might have had WMD. Those are good reasons, but not the real reason. The United States is in Iraq to force Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran to change their behavior toward al Qaeda and other Islamist groups. The United States already has overwhelmed the Saudis and is engaged in threatening Syria and Iran. This is visible to everyone who is watching. That is why the United States is in Iraq. It might or might not be good strategy, but it is a strategy that is much better than no strategy at all.
Admitting this undoubtedly will create a frenzy in the media concerning the change in explanation. But there will be nothing to chew on, and the explanation will be too complex for the media to understand anyway. They will move on to the next juicy murder, leaving foreign policy to the government and the public. We suspect that before this is over, both Tenet and Rumsfeld will have to go, but that matters more to them than to the republic, which will endure their departure with its usual equanimity. Alternatively, Bush will continue to allow the battle to be fought over the question of "what did he know and when did he know it," which is a battle he cannot win. Bush has a strategic decision to make. He must align strategy with public perception or have his presidency ripped apart.


posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

At this point it might be interesting to review Joshua Micah Marshall's interview with Kenneth Pollack:


and his review of Pollack's book:


and Pollack's article in Foreign Affairs (March/April 2002):


Here's an interesting take on the overall big picture, if you read French:


posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

@tm: how can you simultaneously cite Rauch, whose basically decent argument is tarnished by his praise of "muddling through" (utter BS whose only purpose seems to be to exonerate the admin) and the Stratfor piece which -IMO correctly- says that the lack of a plan is exactly the problem.

posted by: markus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear Peter,

Before the war, I made the case to a radio personality in private correspondence that the invasion was justified on the grounds that once sanctions fell Saddam would get WMD for sure. However, just because war was justified on those grounds does not give the President of the United States the right to either A) fuck-up going to war or B) sell the war on a bunch of wishful thinking and exaggerations.

What the big deal about the Kay report says is that if we had waited a few months to go to war, it wouldn't have mattered as far as WMD went. What would have changed however is that we would have brought most of the world along with us, and had lots of help with the reconstruction. Don't try that bullshit either about "we've got plenty of Allies." The Solomon Islands and a few thousand troops from Poland that we are footing the bill for don't count.

That is what allot of people are really mad about regarding the WMD hard-sell. Remember it was based on the clear and present danger sell that we went to war without the rest of the world. Now we're stuck there without any help. That is what my fellow conservatives aren't facing up to.

posted by: Oldman on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear TM,

First you are being a naive elitist. If we hadn't gone to the UN, things would have been worse and not better. Despite the serious setback of what happened there as can be seen that the US can't even raise nine votes now without the threat of veto, if we hadn't gone we would have lost Britain and been even more of a pariah state than we are now. It's entirely possible that the UN sec. council would have convened and voted (with a US veto) to condemn the US as a rogue state that was violating the UN charter. And then a General Assembly vote which we could not have vetoed would have gone through and as far as the world would have been concerned it would have been just us and Isreal.

Powell and Blair were right to take us to the UN, just as Blair was right when he tried to set back the time table for the invasion. He was over-ruled however.

Secondly, comparing the WWII deception to this situation is bogus. We fought Hitler to deliver Europe from occupation, stop him from invading the American mainland, and as an afterthought prevented him from exporting the Holocaust to the entire world.

What were the stakes in stopping Saddam right the and there? Not so big. Yes, in time he would have gained nuclear weapons absent sanctions. Yet even in WWII we waited until we had an airtight Causus Belli in order to unify and mobilize American support for such an endeavour. That's why FDR waited so long. FDR waited *years* for his pretext.

Bush couldn't wait a few weeks. That's the difference.

posted by: Oldman on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


When (if you haven't already) are you going to start your blog?

Then liberals looking to show their open-mindedness wouldn't have to link to Dan D. as an affirmative-action policy.

Your posts are extremely well articulated, and in particular the 10:06 pm post describes my position regarding the war as well.

posted by: Swopa on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

And remember that we went to the UN largely because Tony Blair insisted on it, which meant that the case we were making necessarily had to accomodate itself to legalistic concerns.

Translated: "Tony Blair believes in the United Nations Charter, which expressly forbids pre-emptive war without a credible threat. Unless we claimed that Iraq had WoMD that it could use against the United States and the United Kingdom, the invasion of Iraq was illegal under the UN Charter. We don't believe in the UN Charter any more, but we wanted at least one ally going in, so we lied and distorted the evidence to make it look as if we had some kind of legal basis to invade Iraq."

posted by: Jesurgislac on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


I didn't say that we shouldn't have gone to the UN. I said that the case our administration chose to make was substantially conditioned by the fact that we did. There's a big difference.

And, no, I don't think the Roosevelt comparison is bogus. That was a vastly different sort of war. Moreover, we had the option to stay out of it. It's fascinating to listen to Lindbergh's speeches railing against the Roosevelt administration in 1941, before Pearl Harbor. Here's one from September and here's one from May.

What would a few more weeks have accomplished? A few more weeks would have meant launching the invasion in summer weather. Since we had to be prepared for WMD attacks, that means the prospect of fighting in 100 degree heat in biochem suits. Sure, as it turned out, it went pretty fast. But we couldn't have been sure about that. And, diplomatically, the momentum was against us. France's position was absolutely fixed. Public opinion and media treatment was rabidly anti-American in one enormous crescendo that had begun to build immediately after 9/11.

This is what happened in Germany immediately after 9/11. This is what happened in Greece. I saw and heard firsthand what happened in Belgium.

Instead of understanding the reality of the ideology and motivations of the 9/11 attacks, it's the conventional wisdom here that the jihadis are a variety of freedom fighters who understandably are resisting imperialism and oppression. Or else the phenomenon is understood, as Chris Patten put it, as one of the negative consequences of globalization.

The mainstream here is entirely unacquainted with the reality of Iraq under Saddam Hussein as described by Thomas von der Osten Sacken. (And see the latter part of this interview for a provocative comparison of the attitudes and rhetoric in Germany vis-a-vis the Middle East with those of decades past.)

I have a friend here who's a grad student in IR. With one exception, all of her professors regularly launch into tirades against the US. Even if the subject is medieval political history, they find a way to obsess about America. They routinely rail against US actions in Africa and Asia during the Cold War. And when an African student says, yes, but what about the behavior of France and Belgium during the Cold War, it is simply brushed off.

Popularly, the conventional wisdom is that the Cold War was a struggle between two empires to see who was going to be the big boss. The conventional wisdom is also that the US involved itself in WWII not as self-defense against the longer-term threat Nazi domination of Europe would have posed but instead to maximize its power and influence.

I'm not saying that the decision to invade Iraq was the right decision; as with the Reagan administration's decision to fundamentally challenge the Soviet Union, at the very least it's still too early to tell. And I think it's self-evident that the Bush adminstration made its case quite ineptly. Nevertheless, it's very hard to see how it would have made any difference in Europe. And it's important to understand that, although we've certainly made mistakes and our high-handed rhetoric and attitudes is counterproductive, the Europeans are clearly the aggressors in the whole mess. They are pursuing the goal of building up a post-national entity which will be a counterweight to the US but they never looked into the reality the US has been forced to confront as a consequence of 9/11. France very fundamentally misread us and consequently misread its own interests as well.

I think that Keynes was right: ideas matter more than most people realize. And that's why what's happened in Europe is dangerous. And once you see how this phenomenon is interacting with American politics, I think it becomes clear why the attempt to continue to deligitimize the war is a really bad idea.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


I cited the Stratfor piece primarily for the following points:

(a) There were rational, pragmatic, and compelling reasons for the Bush administration to engage in such deception as it made in making the public and diplomatic cases for war, and such practices are a standard feature of foreign policy implementation.

(b) The failure of the Bush administration to come clean since the war is causing substantial damage both to its own position and to US national interests. (And note that that piece dates from more than two months ago.)

However, one could also make the case that not having a plan is problematic and entails significant negative consequences, but that it's preferable to having a fixed plan which is difficult to alter or abandon even when reality is making it counterproductive.

Indeed, one could see that that's exactly what's happening: the administration believed that we'd find WMD caches and thus wouldn't have any reason to come clean on the strategic motivations. But for some time it's been clear that reality has scuttled this plan, which it stubbornly continues to stick to despite its having become counterproductive both to their political interests and to our national interests.

Also, there's a lot to be said for multiperspectivalism and complexity. Paul Fussell wrote a remarkable response to Michael Walzer's criticism of his essay "Hiroshima: A Soldier's View," retitled "Thank God for the Atom Bomb" in a collection of essays with that title. Although it's an ethical debate and the matter here is one of practicality, it's a stimulating defense of complexity and double-mindedness. The exchange appeared in the September 23, 1981 issue of The New Republic. Here are Fussell's first two paragraphs:

I'm grateful to Michael Walzer for his courteous demurrer, but I think we're never going to agree, for our disagreement is one between sensibilities. I'd designate them as, on the one hand, the ironic and the ambiguous (or even the tragic, if you like), and, on the other, the certain. The one complicates problems, leaving them messier than before and making you feel terrible. The other solves problems and cleans up the place, making you feel tidy and satisfied. I'd call the one sensibility the literary-artistic-historical; I'd call the other the social-scientific-political. To expect them to agree, or even to perceive the same data, would be expecting too much.

My aim in writing the article on Hiroshima was to complicate, even mess up, the moral picture. What Walzer does in his comment by playing on our anxieties, with terms like "terrorist" anachronistically applied, is to simplify it again. I was saying that I was simultaneously horrified about the bombing of Hiroshima and forever happy because the event saved my life. Both at the same time. I'll stick with William Blake:

Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear all,

I'll admit that I did not anticipate the reaction to this post. Lots to mull over.

I'm teaching today, but I will try to post a respobse sometime later in the day.

posted by: Dan Drezner on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Tuppence worth from the UK:

1) Certainly from this side of the ocean, pro versus anti war is not a left-right issue. Even in the US is it not only right-wing commentators who say it is?

2) Quietly thrilled that some chickens are coming home to roost in the US - it was looking like they wouldn't a couple of months back. Scanning the response to DD's endorsement of AS's post, it is hugely reassuring to realise that George, Dick and Tony's great adventure is NOT going to be swept under the carpet. (AS used to have something interesting to say - occasionally - but his jejune and partisan utterings seem increasingly below par in my humble opinion).

3) re TM at 8.52pm, I'm surprised that twice in your contribution you mention European hostility to the US after the 9/11 catastrophy. In my experience Europe was united in real sympathy and outrage (Le Monde's famous headline an example ) for weeks after. And this was despite already extensive euro frustration with the Bush regime over a number of issues - Kyoto, International war crimes courts, protectionism etc, and of course the circumstances of Bush's election in the first place. I think the love-in began to wane in some quarters (though not mine) when Afghanistan was invaded, even though it could justifibly be claimed to be a logical part of the war on terror.

Others have much more clearly propounded the theory that Iraq was a diversion from this war on terror than I could reprise here. Suffice it to say that in my view Europe (forget about governments here - I'm talking about people) could see through the arguments that the Iraq war's proponents were making, and that prompted Europe fell out of love with the US as a result. Many of us - non-left, centrist, thinking, interested, not particularly anti-war per se, felt we were being treated shoddily and patronised by our politicians then, and the evidence coming out now does nothing to suggest that our initial feelings were unfounded. And now in the US too - so we are all on the same planet after all!

posted by: Justin on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Sorry to be so long in responding. Your answer to my not so difficult question from yesterday is revealing. You are clearly on the attack, trying to make the case for dishonesty and untrustworthiness, and missing the point. The question this president is going to ask himself at the end of his life is “My country was attacked, American citizens died on American soil. Did I do everything I could possibly do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” Judging from your comments, if you were in his position you would have us wait. I happen to agree with President Bush who said we can’t wait for this danger to become imminent. You would have us seek proof of danger, while President Bush demanded that Saddam prove to us that he is not a danger. His is the Don Corleone approach. This is not a secret. It’s right out there for everybody to see, and he is willing to be held accountable. Both Blair and Bush have bet their political careers on it.

I do think it’s fascinating that you will make yourself believe that Bill Clinton was mistaken while George Bush must be lying. I’ll make a prediction. When 2004 rolls around, few people will care about all the claims of contradictory statements and all the manufactured scandals. People will remember that Saddam Hussein was evil, and that Iraq is better off without him, and that Bush, Blair, and company actually did something about it, while the rest of the world, including all but one of the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates, was willing only to lament the situation. Nobody is going to think that we would be safer, or that the world would be better place, with Saddam Hussein still in power in Iraq. It’s Bush in a landslide in 2004.

posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

I think Andrew Sullivan is right when he says that the case for war did not have anything to do with Weapons of Mass Destruction, but president Bush used the "WMD threat" to get from the permission to go to war from the Congress.

posted by: Márcio Guilherme on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

This is a pretty high-quality thread, I have to say. Anyone looking to survey the landscape of public opinion on Iraq would do well to start here. I eagerly await Mr. Drezner's response.

Here is, I believe, the essence of the debate:

1) General consensus on the distinction between the underlying (strategic realignment of the middle east) and the stated (WMD) case for war.

2) General agreement that we have not really found WMDs

3) Disagreement on whether the potential or actual presence of WMDs was a threat

3) Disagreement on whether either reason (WMDs or strategery) was compelling enough to go to war

posted by: praktike on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

"I think Andrew Sullivan is right when he says that the case for war did not have anything to do with Weapons of Mass Destruction, but president Bush used the "WMD threat" to get from the permission to go to war from the Congress."

posted by: Márcio Guilherme on 10.08.03 at 11:43 AM [permalink]

The problem with that is that the alleged 'real reason' can be adjusted as needed, with every previously given reason discarded when it it is debunked ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H becomes irrelevant, and 'old news', and 'we should move on...'.

posted by: Barry on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

"The question this president is going to ask himself at the end of his life is “My country was attacked, American citizens died on American soil. Did I do everything I could possibly do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?” "

And attacking Iraq is not linked in any logical way with keeping it from happening again. Bush pissed away international good will, degraded alliances, spent money which would better have been spent in many other places. The was has eroded both US military strength and the perception of strength.

I'll bet that the governments of Syria and Iran are breathing a bit easier than they were last spring, when they figured that at least one of them would feature prominently in the GWB Fall 2003 Regine Change Review. Now there is no such prospect, since holding Iraq will occupy our attention and resources.

Meanwhile, back in Al Quaida - remember them? 3000 dead americans on 9/11/01? 15 of 19, and all that? - life has got to be looking better than in Spring '02. First Bush relied on local warlords to tax ^H^H^H kill the Al Qaida and Taliban guys fleeing into Pakistan. They let them get to at least a partial sanctuary. But with Iraq, they've got a whole new playground. And before you pull out the 'flypaper' argument, remember why they would be going there - because they can kill Americans much more easily than otherwise, and because recruitment should be good.

posted by: Barry on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

The balance of power in the Middle East has undergone a dramatic change. State supported terrorism has been reduced. There may not be a direct connection between the 9/11 attack and Saddam Hussein, but he was certainly connected to terrorism as evidenced by the presence of terrorist training camps in Iraq and Saddam's monetary rewards to families of suicide bombers.

Syria has closed down Hamas offices in Damascus in response to events in Iraq, and the grandson of Ayatolla Khomeini would like us to make a regime change in Iran. I think that to say there is no connection to terrorism is unrealistic.

posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Way up there Peter writes

Since when pre-war did we in the US not know that Iraq was going to cost us bundles of cash?
Before the war, the Administration was talking $50Bn or less total. Here's a summary from the (rightwing) Washington Times:
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the House Appropriations Committee March 27 reconstruction could largely be covered by proceeds from Iraqi oil and foreign donations. [snip]
Andrew Natsios, the director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, put an even finer point on it April 23. He told ABC's Nightline "the American part of this will be $1.7 billion." [Emphasis supplied] [snip]
In fact, the $50 billion figure came from then Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, a fact Rumsfeld noted in January to reporters.

The only Administration official anywhere close to correct although still too low was Larry Lindsey, and he was fired for his candor.

Now, I didn't believe it. I didn't believe there were WMD above the battlefield tactical level (surely no nukes), and I didn't believe Bush was suing to stop the recount in Florida for the integrity of the process. But, frankly, a lot of people, including Congressmen and rightwing pundits, did believe it. At least, they seemed to believe it, and they ridiculed left-liberals like me for our cynicism, pessimism, and lack of courage and audacity. Maybe they didn't believe it even then, maybe all those allegations were Leninist prevarication in the service of some higher cause (2002 and 2004 GOP candidates?). Pardon my anger, but the American people are waking up to the utter mendacity of every component of their seduction by the Bush war team, and that's why his approval ratings are dropping. Please let it continue to 11/2004.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

State supported terrorism has been reduced. ...[Saddam] was certainly connected to terrorism as evidenced by the presence of terrorist training camps in Iraq and Saddam's monetary rewards to families of suicide bombers.

I don't think there were any terrorist training camps, outside Kurdish areas where Saddam had no control. Please post a contrary link. I don't deny that Saddam had warm relationships with anti-Israel terror groups, but that's a far cry from saying that he was going to have nuclear capability in a year. In any event, the suicide bombers keep coming (to the extent they aren't, it's probably because of Israeli security actions). Maybe that's because they are still state-supported by our good friends in Saudi Arabia!

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

A great deal of defeatist talk, much of it with claims that are...questionable.

At least Saddam and Arafat are happy with what you are saying, so that's something.

posted by: DSmith on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Here is one link. Some will dispute it saying that it could have been used as in anti-terror training. You have to decide for yourself.


posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear DSmith,

Right and if we'd have kept on plugging away at Vietnam that would have ended up smelling like a rose too. This isn't Vietnam. Having some personal experience with that country however, what is true is that it could get allot worse allot quicker. Right now we're losing the Shiites.

What is the relevance to the case for war? Like Vietnam this was a conflict sold to the American people for some sort of Grand Ideaological Venture. Well pardon Americans if they actually want to see the showers of flowers, democracy blossoming, and nations rise from their ashes to noble new beginnings after we've been told that this is how it will turn out.

The Admin sold this war as the right thing to do at the right time. It is now their millstone. If being upset at being dragged into a dirty war with no real point is defeatist then call the Founding Fathers defeatist too. They were just as against this sort of thing then as now. That's why they made it so that the President had to go to the Congress for permission, to ensure the collective unity of the nation.

This safeguard is subverted however when there is hyped evidence and Congress is sold a bill of false goods with balooney assurances on how it would turn out. That is what the ultimate issue for me in this pre-war intel business is. It comes down to whether or not the President of the United States subverted the Constitution.

posted by: Oldman on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear Swopa,

Q: “Oldman,
When (if you haven't already) are you going to start your blog?”

A: Well, there's a few minor issues. One is that like most people, I'm not exactly who I seem to be. My life has had many adventures with many quite big mistakes. These mistakes are how come I know what I know about things, but at the same time people could throw them in my face.

This is one of the reasons why I like Dan. He seems to genuinely care even when he get's criticized for putting out stuff for free. He has a good heart.

Another thing is that I'm a total dinosaur when it comes to the technical side of web blogging. I don't know how to make my own webpage despite having bought a few books, and wouldn't be quite sure where to put the blog even if I did have one.

Excuses, excuses I know I know. Tell you what: If you can suggest some sort of technical support source that would help me get blogging I'd get up in public and let people take their potshots at me in return.

posted by: Oldman on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Right and if we'd have kept on plugging away at Vietnam that would have ended up smelling like a rose too.

If we had gone about it the right way, it *would* have ended up smelling like a rose. And we would have avoided Pol Pot. We didn't just lose the war, a couple million Cambodians lost their lives. Nice going.

At no time did the VC or NVA beat the US. We beat ourselves, largely by the same tactics I see employed today, even in this thread.

This isn't Vietnam.

Then why bring it up?

Having some personal experience with that country however, what is true is that it could get allot worse allot quicker.

So, since things could get worse no matter what you do, the proper course of action is to do nothing.

Right now we're losing the Shiites.

A prime example of the questionable claims that I see a lot of.

Like Vietnam this was a conflict sold to the American people for some sort of Grand Ideaological Venture.

Um, no. It was "sold" to the American people as a fight for our survival as a free people. You may disagree with the assertion that it *is* a fight for survival, but to say that it was sold as an ideological adventure is simply revisionist, imo.

Well pardon Americans if they actually want to see the showers of flowers, democracy blossoming, and nations rise from their ashes to noble new beginnings after we've been told that this is how it will turn out.

Me too. Just how impatient are Americans entitled to be? It took 10 years or more to get Europe settled down and back on its feet. This isn't as big a job, but it's sizable. At least be fair and give us half the time, 5 years. To call "failure" now, after a few months, is simply defeatist.

The Admin sold this war as the right thing to do at the right time.

And it was, imo.

It is now their millstone.

Yeah, so you, and the defeatist media, claim. Personally, I think it will be a big success, and that Bush will handily get reelected. History will prove which of us is right. Claiming "millstone" doesn't make it so.

If being upset at being dragged into a dirty war with no real point is defeatist then call the Founding Fathers defeatist too..

Sorry, this is just baloney, and adding the Founding Fathers in there doesn't help the flavor any. No one has shown that the war had "no real point". The point was the elimination of Saddam Hussein as a threat to the world. That has now been accomplished. You may disagree with the analysis that Hussein *was* a threat, but it does not follow that your analysis is correct, and therefore your assertion that the war "had no real point" is groundless.

posted by: DSmith on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Justin wrote:

3) re TM at 8.52pm, I'm surprised that twice in your contribution you mention European hostility to the US after the 9/11 catastrophy. In my experience Europe was united in real sympathy and outrage (Le Monde's famous headline an example ) for weeks after.

I was in London on 9/11, and I spent that afternoon listening to talk radio. Although they were obviously a minority and a self-selecting group, caller after caller launched into a "yes but" tirade about US foreign policy. I still have the infamous first post-9/11 issue of the New Statesman, and watched with interest as, a few months later, several writers complained of having had their pieces rejected for being too pro-American. The editors defended their decision by stating that circulation had doubled as a consequence of their fierce anti-American line.

But back in Belgium, things were much different. At the university social council here (which tends to attract the sort of volunteers with political aspirations), where a friend of mine was working, one of his colleagues openly celebrated the attacks that day.

Within my social milieu, many people (including close friends) were circulating emails about how the US has murdered a million Iraqi babies for oil profits and all other kinds of nonsense.

Yes, I remember that famous headline in Le Monde. So does Fouad Ajami:

Much has been made of the sympathy that the French expressed for the United States immediately after the September 11 attacks, as embodied by the famous editorial of Le Monde's publisher Jean-Marie Colombani, "Nous Sommes Tous Américains" ("We are all Americans"). And much has been made of the speed with which the United States presumably squandered that sympathy in the months that followed. But even Colombani's column, written on so searing a day, was not the unalloyed message of sympathy suggested by the title. Even on that very day, Colombani wrote of the United States reaping the whirlwind of its "cynicism"; he recycled the hackneyed charge that Osama bin Laden had been created and nurtured by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Colombani quickly retracted what little sympathy he had expressed when, in December of 2001, he was back with an open letter to "our American friends" and soon thereafter with a short book, Tous Américains? le monde après le 11 septembre 2001 (All Americans? The World After September 11, 2001). By now the sympathy had drained, and the tone was one of belligerent judgment and disapproval. There was nothing to admire in Colombani's United States, which had run roughshod in the world and had been indifferent to the rule of law. Colombani described the U.S. republic as a fundamentalist Christian enterprise, its magistrates too deeply attached to the death penalty, its police cruel to its black population. A republic of this sort could not in good conscience undertake a campaign against Islamism. One can't, Colombani writes, battle the Taliban while trying to introduce prayers in one's own schools; one can't strive to reform Saudi Arabia while refusing to teach Darwinism in the schools of the Bible Belt; and one can't denounce the demands of the sharia (Islamic law) while refusing to outlaw the death penalty. Doubtless, he adds, the United States can't do battle with the Taliban before doing battle against the bigotry that ravages the depths of the United States itself. The United States had not squandered Colombani's sympathy; he never had that sympathy in the first place.

Colombani was hardly alone in the French intellectual class in his enmity toward the United States. On November 3, 2001, in Le Monde, the writer and pundit Jean Baudrillard permitted himself a thought of stunning cynicism. He saw the perpetrators of September 11 acting out his own dreams and the dreams of others like him. He gave those attacks a sort of universal warrant: "How we have dreamt of this event," he wrote, "how all the world without exception dreamt of this event, for no one can avoid dreaming of the destruction of a power that has become hegemonic . . . . It is they who acted, but we who wanted the deed." Casting caution and false sympathy aside, Baudrillard saw the terrible attacks on the United States as an "object of desire." The terrorists had been able to draw on a "deep complicity," knowing perfectly well that they were acting out the hidden yearnings of others oppressed by the United States' order and power. To him, morality of the U.S. variety is a sham, and the terrorism directed against it is a legitimate response to the inequities of "globalization."

Here's how Pascal Bruckner describes that day in Europe, in a piece with nonetheless refrains from recounting the ugliness and the gloating seen among some elements on the left in particular:

For the last half century, Europe has been haunted by the demons of repentance. Ruminating over its past crimes-slavery, imperialism, fascism, communism-it has seen its history as nothing but a long litany of murder and rapine culminating in two world wars. The typical European man or woman is a sensitive creature always prepared to feel pity for the sufferings of the world and to assume responsibility for them, always asking what the North can do for the South rather than what the South can do for itself. By the evening of September 11, a majority of our citizens, despite their obvious sympathy for the victims, were telling themselves that the Americans had it coming. Make no mistake: the same argument would have been made if the terrorists had destroyed the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. Sensitive souls on both right and left would have urged us to flagellate ourselves: we've been attacked, so we're guilty. Our attackers are really poor people protesting against our insolent wealth and our western lifestyle. We Europeans spontaneously agree with our enemies in the way we judge ourselves, and we take shelter from the furies of the age by focusing on everyday economic and social problems.

Here's how Paul Berman understands the phenomena:

But there's one other--and this is my last point--there's one other way in which these ideas spread, which is indirectly, as if through a bank shot in pool, or action and reaction. And that is this way: what was the original revolt against liberalism, which caused the totalitarian uprising? It was a revulsion against the simplicity of liberal rationalism, the simplicity that promised infinite progress to all the world and yet could not take account of the irrational elements in society that had led to the first world war.

This same problem, of a simple-mind...of a liberal naivety that's unable to take account of the irrational, exists today in this form. If irrational movements arise now, if they act irrationally, if they act on the cult of death, if they commit mass-massacres--and we're speaking really mass--millions--literally, millions of people have been killed by this movement in the last twenty years--if this is happening, then from the point of view of a naive, rationalist, liberal imagination, there is a kind of a crisis, there is a philosophical crisis, and the impulse become large, becomes huge, to postulate that the irrational is not irrational, that if people are acting in ways that appear to be irrationalist, and acting on a cult of death, there must be a rational explanation for this. And so it follows a kind of...a kind of logic follows in which the more grotesque the terrorist actions, the more irrational, the more suicidal, the bloodier they are, the deeper must be the crime that, rationally speaking, must have inspired these acts. Thus it is followed [?] that, while the intifada of the 1980s did _not_ spark a loathing worldwide of Israel, the intifada of the last couple of years _has_. That the worse were the terrorist bombing, the greater was the outcry against Israel. And I attribute this to be a defense of the rationalist imagination, trying to determine, trying to insist that if the crimes--that if Israel's enemies have been acting _this_ desperately, unto irrational mass-murder and suicide, it can only be explained by the degree of Israel's crimes. Thus, the worse the terrorism against Israel, the more Israel must be Nazi-like in its quality.

The same thing accounts--can be seen in anti-Americanism. We remember falsely today that after 9/11 there was a world-wide surge of sympathy for the United States. Well, there was, but there was also a revulsion, and all you have to do is think back to that infamous--famous edition of the London Review of Books where any number of intelligent and even brilliant--well, intelligent--people weighed in full of anger at the United States. And this I think represents the same phenomena. If something that terrible had been done against the United States, it can only be that the United States is that guilty. Much more guilty than one had imagined before. I'm...I'm maybe a little less sanguine than some on the prospects of anti-Semitism in the future because I can predict this: that if there's a new 9/11, if there's a new mass atrocity committed against the United States, I guarantee that it will result in a new wave of anti-Semitism, and a new wave of anti-Americanism.

That's from a lecture he gave at a conference on the resurgence of anti-Semitism. Additionally, because anti-Americanism is structually related to anti-Semitism, I highly recommend the lectures there by Finkielkraut, Caldwell, Lilla, and Joffe.

Here's a segment from the New Yorker's Paris Postcard, posted on the first of October, 2001:

The reluctance to pause over the American catastrophe would be insignificant if it had been limited to a meeting of political marginals, but that was not quite the case. In the first issue of Le Monde to appear after the attacks, the newspaper's editor, Jean-Marie Colombani, published on the front page a solemn editorial entitled "We Are All Americans," and in the days to come there were many such pieces in the press and also many similarly sympathetic gestures, including a flood of pro-American E-mails and letters to the Peace Museum in Caen; yet a hint of the political posturing ahead was provided by an article elsewhere in the paper on the "American extreme right," which warned readers that it was still possible that white supremacists had been behind the hijackings. An academic at the prestigious National Center for Scientific Research, in Paris, Marie-José Mondzain, wrote a piece for Le Monde called "I Don't Feel American." "As in any murder screenplay," she wrote, "the investigator asks: who profits from the crime? The Palestinians? Of course not. The Afghans? . . . The poor? The oppressed? Of course not. . . . Those who come out more arrogant and stronger than ever are Bush, Putin, and Sharon. What a success!" Four of the eleven candidates competing for the French Presidency—three on the far left, and one, Jean-Marie Le Pen, on the far right—told the local press that the United States essentially had itself to blame for the attacks.

In Parisian circles, one expects a vast range of ideas from around the world to be taken seriously—that's one of the pleasures of being here. But in my café in Montparnasse, and elsewhere, the French men and women I talked with—cartoonists, computer programmers, professors—often joined their words of concern to critiques of American policy. The critiques were familiar, but the tone and the point were now hard to take. Over baklava and sweet mint tea at a café outside a mosque, friends of mine from Iran and Algeria, who knew at first hand the agonies of war, warmly expressed sympathy and asked me for news of my family in Manhattan. As I began to answer, a French filmmaker at the table cut me off to complain that, with all the talk about the Twin Towers, everyone forgets about Bhopal.

A bit further, a note of hope is struck thanks to what the writer calls "a morally lucid article, "The Nihilist Equation," by André Glucksmann and Romain Goupil." Glucksmann has indeed remained a voice of sanity, but unfortunately one of the few in the French wilderness.

For the view in Ireland, try this and this and this.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Justin also wrote:

And this was despite already extensive euro frustration with the Bush regime over a number of issues - Kyoto, International war crimes courts, protectionism etc, and of course the circumstances of Bush's election in the first place.

If it was the Bush adminstration that the Europeans were frustrated with over Kyoto, then they never bothered to do the most basic research on the American political system (treaties must be ratified by the Senate) and the basic realities of how Kyoto was seen in the States.

Jean François Revel:

It is well known that in 1997 under the auspices of the United Nations, delegates from 168 countries, assembled in Kyoto, signed a protocol to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. Shortly after taking office in January, 2001, Bush withdrew the US adherence to the Kyoto protocol. Immediately indignation and even insults abounded, especially from Europe. Bush, it was said, cynically sacrificed our planet’s future to capitalist profit and in particular to the oil companies whose notorious puppet he is, as we were told. Unfortunately, the authors of this in-depth analysis neglected some facts that they could have easily researched. First and foremost, in 1997 under Clinton’s presidency, the American Senate had already voted against the Kyoto protocol by 95 votes to 0. Rightly or wrongly, this is another problem. The fact remains, however, that Bush was not responsible.

It seems to me that the ICC would come into direct conflict with the US constitution. And that's serious business. I don't understand why the Bush administration doesn't make its case on that basis.

And what on earth is meant by "and of course the circumstances of Bush's election in the first place"? I was emotionally opposed to Bush, though not supporting Gore, and I didn't vote. Gore conceded, and although he quickly retracted he had already ceded the advantage to Bush. And then the count showed that Bush had won, so that was the default result. Then, instead of asking for a state-wide recount, Gore's team only wanted recounts in counties liable to shift the outcome in his favor. Both sides got down and dirty. By the time it went to the supreme court weeks had passed an inauguration day was looming. I was hoping there would be a statewide recount but the bottom line is that such circumstances were foreseen and it was handled according to the prescribed procedures. See the link to Revel for a lengthy treatment of this.

But at any rate, how on earth can this be construed as some European grievance?

And the Europeans are even bigger protectionists than the Americans.

But the fundamental point is that all these issues are quite trivial in relation to the crisis instigated by the attacks on 9/11.

Here's a translation of part of the article by Jean-Christophe Mounicq:

Since September 11 2001 the United States have been at war

The economy and oil are not, any more than psychoanalysis and Israel, the primary motives for the intervention in Iraq. The terrible events of September 11 2001 explain it better. At the time, commentators were not wrong in considering that that date would mark a turning point in the history of the world. "Year 1 of the new world", "a world turned upside down forever." Since then, they have forgotten this accurate comment and have failed to develop their analyses. The events of September 11 really did mark a decisive date in the history of humanity: they made the people and the leaders of the world's foremost power aware that they were vulnerable. Terrorists were capable of striking in the most appalling way imaginable: by killing thousands of civilians. Their territory, protected from the rest of the world by two oceans, was no longer a sanctuary. What Russian communists never dared do, striking American soil directly, Islamist Arabic terrorists did without any compunction and with disconcerting ease. Above all the Americans also understood that this act was only one stage in the horror.

Pre-emptive strikes to stop nuclear terrorism.

Since September 11, the Americans have been at war. This thought has never left them. They know they can no longer put off a response to this terrorist threat, principally but not exclusively Islamist. The September 11 terrorists, if they had the means, would have used weapons of mass destruction. The Americans cannot await another attack in which the terrorists might explode a 10 kilotonne mini-atom bomb in the very heart of New York or Washington. This terrifying hypothesis was contemplated very seriously in the weeks following September 11. The United States found themselves totally defenceless faced with a threat which would immediately cost two or three hundred thousand dead with the wind effect and, in the years following, hundreds of thousands of others through radiation. Their security services are powerless. A miniature atomic bomb can be carried in a car boot. It is impossible to monitor all the cars coming into their big metropolises. They are afraid that the Islamist terrorists may have already bought such arms from the disintegrating Soviet army. They know that the day an enemy state knows how to manufacture such bombs, the terrorists will have a chance to use them. The Americans progressively and logically arrived at the concept of pre-emptive strikes against the arsenals of these states. This strategy was conceived in the 1990s by the current deputy secretary for defence. In the week following the September 11 attack, Paul Wolfowitz managed to convince George W. Bush of the necessity for such a policy.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Tom Bowker, thank you for the link.

Recall that earlier this week, the Defense Intelligence agency issued a report admitting that most or all of the "intelligence" sold to us by defectors working with Ahmad Charlatan Chalabi's INC group was "of little or no value". [NY Times link.] Most of the defectors exaggerated or fabricated their credentials and many of their stories are found, now that we are in Iraq, to be completely confabulated. (Some branches of the USG cut Chalabi off, since he couldn't account for the taxpayer monies he had received, but his pitch for a US- and Israel-friendly Iraq under him and him imaginary in-place resistance was too appealing for certain officials, e.g. Wolfowitz, to give up.)

I believe these are precisely two of the defectors singled out in your link. Note it says

The two Iraqi defectors, who were debriefed by the CIA and then put in touch with The New York Times by exile groups opposed to Saddam
The exile groups means Chalabi. The NY Times means reporter Judith Miller, who is Chalabi's embed with the Times. [Slate discussion of Miller's false stories] Miller was the orchestrator of the preposterous INC performance where a so-called scientist pointed at places in the sand where he said WMD were buried. (No residues or other evidence were found.)

I don't blame you for offering this link. But now that we are on the ground, it's obvious that the story is totally bogus, along with all the other seductive pretexts.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Dear DSmith,

To mention Vietnam is to bring up the single greatest failed Democratic policy in American history. It is a mistake that in my lifetime, I never thought to see Republicans make. It was a war sold on false pretenses and engaged on terms that would never lead to success despite official pronouncements otherwise. It was a place that I was and a place that changed my entire family's future forever with the blood lost there.

Whether or not it was possible to have won there, it wouldn't have been possible to win by some simplistic prescription such as more land troops or an invasion of the north. Those of us who were there came to know that. The war was conducted as much in minds of the soldiers and the fields of the south as it ever was on Ho Chi Minh trail or across the borders of Laos and Cambodia.

Iraq is not Vietnam. However mistakes are being made there that if not soon rectified will lead to something similar or quite worse. These mistakes are the ridiculously naive policies and theories of my adle-brained right compatriots who have become so enamoured of their own spin that they believe their own PR.

Like Vietnam, Iraq was a fundamental abuse of Executive power that subverted the Constitution and is leading to an ever increasing polarization of the country. Nor am I the only person who has been to Vietnam who has asked these haunting questions. Anthony Zinni as well as many others are troubled by the trends of what is going on.

To do nothing at all is never the alternative choice of doing something stupid. The proper alternative is to do the smart thing. Those who argue against admitting mistakes are the same people who argue against doing the smart thing in the future. This is the ultimate damnation of those who insist they are infallible - they become the greatest failures.

The American people do not want to see GW Bush fail there, because it is our tails on the line as well. However to point out mistakes being made is not to cause them. Indeed it is to ask that they be ammended so that the venture succeed. No amount of believing that something stupid will work, will make it work no matter what someone else tells you. You cannot spin or believe your way into winning a war.

posted by: Oldman on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

A note of thanks for tm's well-reasoned and well-informed comments here. I think his analysis is largely accurate and particularly insightful in terms of European reactions to 9/11. As a resident of NYC, I can tell you that I wish that anguish on no one, Parisians or Berliners. I felt that day and continue to feel that something profound had occurred. Most people, especially those far away from the event, have already forgotten this, or discounted it, or said that in fact it was really not that different than, say, a natural disaster. Those who claim this are badly mistaken. Had a 9/11 event happened in the heart of a European city, I think the reaction there would have been very different.

It is profoundly simplistic to say that the Iraq war is Bush's "fault"--it is as much effect as cause. The status quo ante in the Middle East--that is, Western democracies propping up corrupt and repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iraq itself--was a terrible policy that the West as a whole should be ashamed it was complicit in. This, and not American military actions, is at the root of Islamofascist hatred of the West. It is certain that Islamists would be just as happy to destroy a section of Paris or Berlin to make their point with the blood of innocents as they were in NYC.

Say what you will about the misleading justifications for the war, but the status quo ante has been altered irrevocably, and I believe, much for the better. 25 million Iraqis have been freed from a vicious fascist tyranny. The potential for a newly freed Iraq at the heart of the Middle East to act as a catalyst for democratic reforms is substantial. Iraq need not be perfect to be a far better and more just society.

9/11 and the Iraq war will have complex effects not for years, but for decades. Those who insist that the war is a failure or a quagmire are guilty of writing "instant history" on the basis of very limited and even contradictory data. Thanks again, tm, for seeing the big picture.

posted by: Daniel Calto on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


Thanks for the compliment. However, I don't find myself entirely in agreement with some of your comments.

First, I think it's a mistake to see the West as the ultimate target. I think it's better to see this as a civil war within the Islamic world. It's a war to purify Islam, to prevent Islam from being thoroughly corrupted by decadence, and to undo the humiliation of having had the caliphate abolished.

In the way you talk about their making a point with the blood of innocents, the implication is that it was an expressive act, not a functional one. But these people are not stupid or crazy. They're reading Clausewitz and they're reading up on Ho Chi Minh's thoughts on military strategy and they're reading Western foreign policy journals. In attacking the US they saw themselves as a vanguard committing the propaganda of the deed which would hopefully spark uprisings against certain regimes, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt being the most important. Also, I think it's clear that they either expected the US to pull out or to be drawn in and, if the latter, they expected that the US would be politically incapable of sustaining casualties and would retreat in humiliation, as in Somalia.

In connection with that, it's worth mentioning a few of the beliefs which condition their world view. One is the belief in Jewish conspiracies, these ideas that have passed into the Islamic world through the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the intellectual impact of Nazism on the Arab world. Another is their perception that they pretty much single-handedly destroyed the Soviet Union, and that the US is weaker than the Soviet Union was. Another is that the regimes in the Islamic world that they detest are mere puppets of the US (a stronger claim than that we are merely propping them up). Another is that the US (controlled by the Jews) is engaged in worldwide conspiracies against the Islamic world. The Bosnian mess was seen as a US conspiracy to eradicate Islam there. The US is also believed to be culpable for what Russia is doing in Chechnya. Our intervention in Somalia was perceived as the establishment of a beachhead preperatory to destroying the Islamist regime in the Sudan. And, of course, Saddam's propaganda about half a million dead Iraqi babies. All in all, they hold us accountable for 4 million Muslim deaths, and claim the right to kill 4 million Americans in response.

Our support of the states you mention certainly helps to strengthen the opposition that gathers around these elements, but it does not account for the core ideology and, indeed, our idea of a democratic and toleratant government is part of what they are fundamentally opposed to.

There is no doubt that Europe would have reacted differently had Berlin or Paris been the site of the attacks, but perhaps not as much as you might think. I suspect that they still would have located the root causes in poverty, and would have rationalized the attacks as the cry of the wretched of the earth, and would have chosen not to see it as an act of war.

Here are some of the features of the prevailing ideology of Europe:

1: Deep guilt and remorse over the holocaust, and the determination to say "never again." Muslims and Arabs and North Africans now occupy the position of the "other" whose alterity must be respected, and who must be safeguarded. (This focus is especially acute given the reality of right-wing or neofascist parties like Vlaamsblok in Flanders, which now gets nearly 20% of the vote.)

2: Deep guilt and remorse about colonialism, and the sense that a huge moral debt is owed to those who suffered because of it.

3: The belief that nearly all conflicts are, in some sense, the result of misunderstandings, and can thus be mediated if only we try hard enough and are sufficiently patent.

4: The diagnosis that the catastrophes that befell Western Europe were rooted in nationalism, and that the solution is to dissovle the nation-state.

5: A tendency to see most political violence as rooted in socioeconomic conditions, and hence a blindness to the crucial role of ideology, religion, or a quest for glory in certain conflicts.

6: An inordinate faith the the possibility of multilateral organizations and NGOs, together with judicial solutions (e.g. the ICC), to eradicate the possibility of major world conflicts.

7: A blanket renunciation of the use of force. A large minority of the populace is fully pacifist.

8: The sense that Europe has transcended history forever, and thus stands in a position where, in its wisdom, it stands aloof and above, judging those of us who benightedly still are mired in history and stubbornly refuse to learn the lessons Europe has succeeded in learning.

9: A failure to understand communism and the Cold War, and thus the persisting popularity and substantial support for those segments which are anti-capitalist, which is accompanied by the survival of many of the dogmas about the US propagated by the other side.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

"I was in London on 9/11, and I spent that afternoon listening to talk radio. Although they were obviously a minority and a self-selecting group, caller after caller launched into a "yes but" tirade about US foreign policy."

This was not just in Europe. I listened to NPR coverage right here in America for 3 days after the 9-11 attacks - pundits and viewers calling in. The amount of patronizing "America had it coming" pontificating, while the ashes were still raining down on NYC, was disgusting. Here too "caller after caller launched into a "yes but" tirade about US foreign policy" plus the predictable insinuations about Israel. Anyone who expressed concern about Al Queda's agenda was patted on the head.

I don't think I have listened to NPR since. I was already getting most of my news from the web.

posted by: Yehudit on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

I was at the antisemitism conference where Berman, Lilla, Joffe, Buruma, and others spoke - you can listen to MP3s of all the speakers here. (Your link didn't work.)

posted by: Yehudit on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


Thanks for remedying my defective link. I wonder what I did wrong.

NPR has its flaws, but on the whole I don't think there's anything else in the US to compare to it. I've very thankful that I live within radio range of a US military base and thus can listen to Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition on AFN.

I wouldn't rely on it as authoritative, but if supplemented with correctives it provides a valuable dimension, and I love their musical choices.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

In my post on October 8, 2003 09:42 PM, I quoted an English translation of part of the piece by Jean-Christophe Mounicq to which I had previously linked.

Unfortunately, I failed to credit the translation, which was made by Cinderella Bloggerfeller. Alas, blogger seems to have eaten the section of his archives which contained this translation, so I can't provide a link for it.

For those interesting in various European angles (and much else to instruct and delight), an afternoon spent browsing the parts of his archives that are accessible would be time well spent.

posted by: tm on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]


RE: "I don't blame you for offering this link. But now that we are on the ground, it's obvious that the story is totally bogus, along with all the other seductive pretexts."

I think your dismissal of the report is premature. The link below points to a story about actually finding what was earlier only reported on by the former Iraqi military officers.


posted by: Tom Bowler on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

Nice summary... thanks for posting it.

posted by: zip code maps on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

We found a military base at Salman Pak, which we already knew existed.

Evidence that it was used for Al Qaeda training? Zero. The airplane fuselage doesn't even agree with the defectors' description. I don't see much significance to the fire engine.

Remember, not one of our intel agencies gives any credence to Chalabi defectors anymore.

posted by: Andrew Lazarus on 10.07.03 at 12:41 PM [permalink]

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