[Iraq War Run-up]
Invasion: An Excellent Way to Spread Peace.
The coordination between the administration and the right-wing punditocracy was impressive. Condi spoke of mushroom clouds, Cheney of flowered greetings, Rummy of shock and awe. And the brain trust on the right, all the while viciously attacking the Democrats, marched right along to war.
Here is a selection of what the right were saying to justify the war:
He says repeatedly, and rightly, that inspectors can only verify a voluntary disarmament. They are utterly powerless to force disarmament on a regime that lies, cheats and hides. And having said, again correctly, that the possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam is an intolerable threat to the security of the United States, there is no logical way to rationalize walking away from Iraq--even if the president wanted to. Nor can the president turn back politically.One thing that emerged in these editorials is the suspicion the right had of the left's motives. Will's was relatively innocuous by comparison:
--Charles Krauthammer, "It's Time to Act," January 24, 2003
Thus it will justify disregarding the presumptively close-minded people who persist in denying ... what? What are people denying who still deny the need for force? That Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? Or that Iraq is resisting the inspections? No, they are denying only that force is needed.Others regarded the opposition to the war as evidence of a deeply flawed character (the comparisons to the French are almost universal--it was the right's favorite cudgel during the war's run-up):
--George Will, "Saddam Removed, the UN Reduced," February 6, 2003
How much more morally indefensible is appeasement when we also have complete international authority to do what must be done? 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... 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.
--Andrew Sullivan, March 17, 2003, following Bush's 48-hour warning speech
Serious critics of U.S. policy say we have other options besides war, but after 12 years of Iraqi non-compliance that case is weak, and waiting further is likely to mean more killing, not less. Terrorists may attack, but they would do that regardless.... And if it takes a sheriff to stand up against evil, then may God bless him.Clinton also makes constant appearances in these editorials. It seems that the right, having gotten their hands on the Pentagon, were ready to rectify the mistakes of Bush the Elder and prove just how big their missiles were.
--Marvin Olasky, "The Anti-Cowboy Movement," March 18, 2003
Bush, in contrast, has no doubt about the goodness of American power, knows an evil and recalcitrant enemy when he sees one, and is self-assured to the point of brazenness. This makes the difference between, in Bush's words to the nation, "decisive force" and "half-measures," between the way Bush has wielded force and the way Clinton did. Americans, as they watch the Iraq war unfold, will have a chance to decide which approach to warfare they prefer. We can be certain about Saddam's preference. He is a man desperately longing for some half-measures right now.And finally, the big argument for the Bush doctrine--which pundits often let Bush make for himself (we'll address that later this week)--which was inevitably made with the precocity of a teen who has just figured out how stupid his parents really are:
--Rich Lowry, "A Farewell to Half Measures," March 21, 2003
Partly it is a reflexive partisan opposition to Bush policy. But, more fundamentally, it reflects an underappreciation of the uses of force and how the "demonstration effect" of a military campaign can make the rest of the world more respectful, rather than less, of the United States; a naive faith in the power of negotiations to work out any dispute (so, why not just sit down with the North Koreans?); and a hyperwillingness to believe the United States is in the wrong whenever it holds a position opposed by other countries.George Will, to his credit, immediately recognized that the failure to find WMD was a big deal. Sullivan made a complete about-face. But Lowry and Krauthammer? Any apologies for helping muster support for an illegal, failed war (and their effort to demonize those who opposed it in good faith)?
It all adds up to a fundamental misunderstanding of how the world works, and of the utility and general morality of American power. This poses a danger for the Democrats. Not just because they will occasionally say things that are starkly wrong (Republicans do that, too), but that their lack of a coherent and realistic framework for foreign policy prevents them from offering serious policy alternatives that keep from simply sounding churlish about American successes overseas.
--Rich Lowry, "The Democrats' Reality Problem," April 17, 2003