Blinded By Bush Hatred
John A. Quayle
blueoval at SGI.NET
Fri May 9 18:51:10 MDT 2003
Blinded by Bush-Hatred
By Jonathan Chait
Thursday, May 8, 2003; Page A31
In the lead-up to the war against Iraq, liberal doves all made pretty much
the same point, with some variation: However successful the conflict itself
might be, the long-term diplomatic costs of alienating much of the world
would outweigh any benefits. This prediction, while questionable, at least
had the benefit of playing out over such an extended period of time that it
could not be conclusively disproved until its adherents were all long dead.
Alas, after the campaign hit a snag, many doves were unable to resist the
temptation to crow over the supposed overconfidence of the war plan -- and
as a result looked silly a few days later when Saddam Hussein's regime
collapsed, to the apparent delight of most Iraqis.
Now, it seems, war opponents are making a similar mistake. The present
cause of their crowing is the failure (thus far) of the military to find
solid evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Opponents of the war are
starting to assert, or at least hint, that the entire rationale for the
conflict has been undermined. The notion that Bush made the whole thing up
about weapons of mass destruction has taken root on the left and is
creeping ever closer to the liberal mainstream. My fellow liberals who have
taken up this line are once again making a disastrous misjudgment.
The soft version of this argument is that the delay in finding weapons of
mass destruction proves we should have given the U.N. weapons inspectors
more time. Hans Blix intimated as much when he archly noted that "it is
conspicuous that so far [U.S. troops] have not stumbled upon anything,
evidence." The reason U.S. troops haven't yet found anything is that
Hussein worked assiduously to hide his proscribed weapons. Iraq moved
weapons around the country in tractor-trailers, buried them in
out-of-the-way places and so on. The lesson is that finding Hussein's
weapons isn't as simple as pulling over to the side of the road and peering
into suspicious-looking buildings. It requires cracking open the elaborate
secrecy apparatus surrounding them. That's something Blix was never going
to be able to do. The difficulty of locating weapons of mass destruction
doesn't prove that inspectors should have been given more time. It proves
that inspections could never have worked while Hussein remained in power.
Recently a more radical version of this argument has gained credence: Maybe
there never were any such weapons. In this view, the entire notion was a
kind of Gulf of Tonkin redux -- a sinister ploy by Bush and his
neoconservative minions to whipsaw the public into supporting a war whose
real motives (Israel? Oil? Empire?) could not be stated openly. It's
entirely appropriate to question the honesty of Bush's stated rationale for
fighting. After all, the arguments he uses to justify his domestic agenda
are shot through with deceit. (Consider his shifting, implausible and
contradictory justifications for cutting taxes.) And it's also true that a
few elements of the administration's evidence against Iraq have turned out
to be overstatements or outright hoaxes.
So Bush's claims should never be taken at face value. But accepting the
fact that Iraq had an extensive and continuing program for weapons of mass
destruction doesn't require taking Bush at his word. The U.N. Special
Commission, when it finished its work in 1999, concluded the same thing. So
has Germany's intelligence service. So has the United Kingdom's. Indeed,
the only people who seem to doubt it are either allies of Hussein or those
who distrust Bush so much that they automatically assume everything he says
must be false.
Perhaps the most disheartening development of the war -- at home, anyway --
is the number of liberals who have allowed Bush-hatred to take the place of
thinking. Speaking with otherwise perceptive people, I have seen the same
intellectual tics come up time and time again: If Bush is for it, I'm
against it. If Bush says it, it must be a lie. Their opposition to Bush has
made liberals embrace principles -- such as the notion that the United
States must never fight without U.N. approval except in self-defense -- to
which the Clinton administration never adhered (see Operation Desert Fox in
1998, or the Kosovo campaign in 1999). And it has made them forget that
there are governments in the world even more odious and untrustworthy than
the Bush administration.
The writer is a senior editor at the New Republic.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
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