I remain a strong believer in the cause of liberating Afghanistan and Iraq from tyranny; and in trying to move the Arab Muslim world toward democracy. President Bush and prime minister Blair deserve huge praise for seeing this through.
January 12, 2005:
Should we have gone to war under the circumstances then prevailing? Probably not. Given the lack of urgency with regard to Saddam's WMDs (yes, this is hindsight, but so is all of this), we obviously should have waited.
SHOULD HAVE WAITED?
January 10, 2003:
In my view, the omissions in the arms declaration are a sufficient U.N. basis for war. And I presume that the only man who really counts in this shares the same view. As Hans Blix says in today's Telegraph,
"We think the declaration failed to answer a great many questions. A more profound reading of the text has now confirmed the impression." He said a list of Iraqi scientists omitted several key names, and he would consider taking officials out of Iraq for questioning. Mr Blix also disclosed that Iraq had imported missile engines and raw material for producing solid missile fuel in violation of UN sanctions.
What more do we need?
February 8, 2003:
LE MONDE WOBBLES: Hmmm. Are the French beginning to acknowledge reality? Today's editorial in Le Monde is called "L'Apres Guerre," and contains the following sentences:
All smiles, defense secretary Rumsfeld predicted a brief war: "Six days? Six weeks?" Let's accept that assessment. What then? What about the after-war? ... To ask these questions is not to defend the indefensible status quo, the Saddam dictatorship.
The indefensible status quo. But wasn't that exactly what the French supported only recently, covered by the fig-leaf that somehow more inspectors would make a blind bit of difference? I think Colin Powell was more effective than some gave him credit for.
February 6, 2003:
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE? I suppose the true hardliners on the left and right would never be persuaded by actual evidence. When you read the arguments of Joe Conason, say, you wonder what would actually convince him of the need for war. Here is a statement that beggars belief:
What was most noticeably absent from Powell's presentation, however, was any evidence that Iraq is a present threat to its neighbors or any other nation - and thus must be invaded and subdued immediately.
Unaccounted for tons of biological and chemical weapons? Rockets and unmanned airplanes to deliver them? A history of using such weapons in warfare? A record of invading other countries at will? Evidence of deliberate attempts to deceive inspectors? Clear evidence of a huge cover-up? Did Conason even listen or read Powell's address or did he simply write this response, like the French did, beforehand? He believes that the onus for discovering the weapons of mass destruction is on the U.N., not Saddam, despite the explicit wording of U.N. Resolution 1441. Actually Conason believes that 1441 is meaningless; and that its demands that Saddam actually cooperate should be ignored, while the inspectors try vainly to find mobile factories in a country the size of France. He actually writes the following sentence:
What [Powell] did prove is that inspections ought to continue and intensify - and if Iraq tries to frustrate them as the regime did in 1998, there will still be plenty of time for military action.
If Iraq continues to frustrate them? By "frustrate," I suppose Conason means actually expelling the inspectors, as in 1998. Anything else is just fine and dandy for him. Isn't this precisely Saddam's gambit? Use the U.N. inspections, which will find nothing under the current circumstances, as a cover for a continued program for WMDs. Keep the charade going indefinitely. Demoralize our troops by keeping them waiting for months on end while Swedes and Dutch scurry around deserts looking for chemical and biological facilities already well-concealed. Perfect. And if a major anthrax attack hits New York or L.A. in the next few months while inspectors continue their fruitless cat-and-mouse game with Saddam, whom do you think Conason will blame? Conason has got his bases covered. And, whatever his intentions, those bases are objectively indistinguishable from Saddam's.
February 5, 2003:
It's up to the U.N. to see if it can work in the immediate future. The main, horrifying conclusion from Powell's presentation, however, is not about the U.N. It's about the direct threat we are still under. If Saddam has what Powell outlines, then this war could be horrendous. It could lead to massive casualties among American troops and a possible attack on civilians in Europe and the U.S. That makes it more important that we get international cover and support for the terrible duty we now have. This seems to me to be particularly true because it was the international coalition that insisted in 1991 that the first Gulf War not extend to deposing Saddam. That coalition now has a moral responsibility to help the U.S. and the U.K. to finish the job. We can only pray now that France, Russia, Germany and the others take that responsibility seriously. Powell has done all that he could have done to make that choice stark and unavoidable. The rest is up to the U.N.
March 9, 2003:
THE NEW YORK TIMES SHOWS ITS CARDS: Finally, after weeks of tortued, incoherent, meandering opportunism, the editors of the New York Times have come to their finger-in-the wind conclusion. No war against Saddam. Here's their reasoning:
[A] far larger and more aggressive inspection program, backed by a firm and united Security Council, could keep a permanent lid on Iraq's weapons program. By adding hundreds of additional inspectors, using the threat of force to give them a free hand and maintaining the option of attacking Iraq if it tries to shake free of a smothering inspection program, the United States could obtain much of what it was originally hoping to achieve. Mr. Hussein would now be likely to accept such an intrusive U.N. operation. Had Mr. Bush managed the showdown with Iraq in a more measured manner, he would now be in a position to rally the U.N. behind that bigger, tougher inspection program, declare victory and take most of the troops home.
Let's unpack that paean to wishful thinking. At bottom, the Times editors believe Hans Blix rather than Colin Powell. They believe that what Saddam is doing - dismantling a few al Samoud missiles - is real progress. They believe the inspections are working in getting Saddam to disarm his chemical, biological and potentially nuclear weapons. And they think that a few hundred more inspectors would finish him off. Well, not quite. They think the threat of force is also a necessary complement to the U.N.'s almighty suasive power.
March 18, 2003:
I think we will look back in the future and not ask, as so many now are, how it was that diplomacy didn't get unanimity on this matter. We will look back and see the moral obtuseness of Chirac and Putin and Schroder and Carter and feel nothing but contempt for them, and their preference for state terror over the responsibilities of the free world. That's why I felt enormous pride tonight in the stand being taken by Blair and Bush. The president's speech was measured, firm, just. Blair's political risks - in order to do what he believes is plainly right - will confirm him in history as a great prime minister, the conscience of his party, and the leader of his country. I say that before this war begins, because the cause is just whatever vicissitudes of conflict await us, and there will be plenty of people who will make this point if and when the war succeeds. But the truth is, regardless of what happens next, we know something important about the two major leaders of the free world right now. Neither man has blinked at evil. The only question in the next forty-eight hours is whether evil will blink before it is destroyed.
Also March 18, 2003:
Blair also spelled out with stunning clarity the absolute vacuousness of the notion that we have been engaged in a "rush to war." This wasn't a Churchillian speech. It was a lawyer's brief, backed by a Christian faith, a faith mocked by many, but a faith that can still see evil where others prefer not to look:
Our fault has not been impatience.
The truth is our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and years ago. Even now, when if the world united and gave him an ultimatum: comply or face forcible disarmament, he might just do it, the world hesitates and in that hesitation he senses the weakness and therefore continues to defy.
What would any tyrannical regime possessing WMD think viewing the history of the world's diplomatic dance with Saddam? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions is only matched by our feebleness in implementing them.
That is why this indulgence has to stop. Because it is dangerous. It is dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us.
Dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace, against us.
Dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity; when in fact, pushed to the limit, we will act. But then when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. Iraq is not the only regime with WMD. But back away now from this confrontation and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating.
Can anyone honestly say he's wrong about that?
March 21, 2003:
JUST READ CONASON: This guy has done everything he can to stop the liberation of Iraq. Now watch him spin and squirm. He's spinning the "peace" movement as supportive of our troops; he's trying to portray the right as anti-Bush (sorry, Joe, David Frum beat you to that angle by several days); and then he lobs a few volleys at Charles Krauthammer and Richard Perle. It's really wonderful to watch apologists for inaction now have to watch as action defeats evil. They will change the subject; they will attack those who got this entire story right while they got it entirely wrong. But they will never reconsider. That would require the kind of open mind that Conason jettisoned years ago. The forces of evil are being dealt a terrible blow on the battle-field. But their chattering enablers are about to be politically annihilated.
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