Sunday, March 09, 2003

Regardless of your viewpoint on the war, William Saletan makes a good point in Slate:
If you tuned in to President Bush's Thursday night press conference to understand his point of view on Iraq, you got what you came for. If you tuned in to find out whether he understood yours, tough luck. That was the deal when we traded in Bill Clinton for Bush. We got a president who understood the difference between truth and lying. We gave up one who understood everything in between. The upside is that our president is doing the right thing in Iraq. The downside is that he can't talk anyone else into going along.


[S]ometimes, things aren't black and white. Sometimes they're gray. When the governments of France, China, or Mexico don't see things your way, you have to start the process of persuasion by understanding where they're coming from. That's where Clinton was at his best and Bush is at his worst. Four times at his press conference, Bush was asked why other countries weren't seeing things our way. Four times, he had no idea.

Also, ABC's Nightline had an interesting report the other night about how Bush's Iraq agenda was basically mapped out by a bunch of his cronies in a right-wing think tank years ago, long before September 11. The September 11 attacks just provided the political climate needed to put the plan into action. Ted Koppel introduces the story:
You can watch our story tonight on at least two levels. One, the conspiracy theory, as in this excerpt from a Scottish newspaper, the Glasgow "Sunday Herald". "A secret blueprint for US global domination reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure regime change even before he took power in January 2001." And a similar, if slightly more hysterical version from a Russian paper, the "Moscow Times". "Not since Mein Kampf has a geopolitical punch been so blatantly telegraphed, years ahead of the blow."

Take away the somewhat hyperbolic references to conspiracy, however, and you're left with a story that has the additional advantage of being true. Back in 1997, a group of Washington heavyweights, almost all of them neo-conservatives, formed an organization called the Project for the New American Century. They did what former government officials and politicians frequently do when they're out of power, they began formulating a strategy, in this case, a foreign policy strategy, that might bring influence to bear on the Administration then in power, headed by President Clinton. Or failing that, on a new Administration that might someday come to power. They were pushing for the elimination of Saddam Hussein. And proposing the establishment of a strong US military presence in the Persian Gulf, linked to a willingness to use force to protect vital American interests in the Gulf. All of that might be of purely academic interest were it not for the fact that among the men behind that campaign were such names as, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. What was, back in 1997, merely a theory, is now, in 2003, US policy. Hardly a conspiracy, the proposal was out there for anyone to see. But certainly an interesting case study of how columnists, commentators, and think-tank intellectuals can, with time and the election of a sympathetic president, change the course of American foreign policy.

--Transcript via Lexis-Nexis

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that even if it is justifiable and necessary, the war should not be carried out without the backing of the UN and the majority of our allies. The world is too interconnected these days for us to take action without considering the effect of the action on our relationships with other countries. Launching a first strike that most of the rest of the world (and many Americans) see as wrong is bad policy, even if you feel that the war is just.

I want to be clear any anti-war sentiment gleaned from the above paragraph is not directed at our soldiers in the field. I have imense respect for those who volunteer to serve our country, and I understand that it's their job to carry out orders. But supporting them doesn't imply an obligation to agree with those orders.

I think that many of the hawks fail to appreciate the true impact this war could have. We're talking about billions and billions of dollars in military spending, a substantial US military presence in the Gulf region for decades, and possibly permanent harm to our relationships with our Allies and the UN. Not to mention the possibility that the war may drag on longer than predicted. And the human toll on both sides -- especially the challenge of invading and conquering a large and already impoverished country without precipitating a massive humanitarian crisis.

I am prepared to admit that I could be wrong on all of this. But I wish Bush and his crew would at least give a passing thought to the idea that they might be wrong -- or at least that the opposition might have some valid points that should be addressed. The "anyone who isn't with us is against us" doctrine may sound good on the evening news, but it's not a very intelligent way to run a country.

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