QUOTE FOR THE DAY:“…I … think Dick Cheney … allied to the core of neocons is that bunch who thought we made a mistake in the first Gulf War, that we should have finished the job. There was another bunch who were traumatized by 9/11, and who thought, ‘The world’s going to hell and we’ve got to show we’re not going to take this, and we’ve got to respond, and Afghanistan is O.K., but it’s not sufficient.’” – Brent Scowcroft, in the new New Yorker.
Well … the question begged is whether Cheney was actually right, if he entertained those two possibilities. After 9/11, the cost-benefit analysis changed a little, didn’t it? Who would want to be the president who gambled (in retrospect, correctly, of course) that Saddam was no WMD threat, and then discovered that some terrorist detonated a Saddam-linked chemical weapon in a major U.S. city? Do you think that president would now be popular? It’s easy to know now, not so easy to have known for sure then. Scowcroft prides himself on always asking about the potential downside. Well, there wsa a pretty major potential downside of trusting Saddam Hussein in 2002. The question was never simply whether we knew the WMDs existed or not. The question was whether, without being able to know for sure, we could trust Saddam to keep such weapons away from terrorists. There’s a realist case for the Iraq war: that the risks of inaction were too high, and that the threat posed by the entire region demanded a radical departure from the acquiescence to autocracy of the past. Scowcroft’s hindsight is a little too easy. He should enjoy it while others deal with reality; and try to change the world for the better.
Well, it’s not just hindsight. Here’s what Scowcroft said in his WSJ editorial August 15, 2002
[T]here is scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations… less to the Sept. 11 attacks… Saddam’s goals have little in common with the terrorists… He is unlikely to risk his … country … handing such weapons to terrorists… and leave Baghdad as the return address… He seeks [WMD]… to deter us from intervening… The United States could certainly defeat… and destroy Saddam… would not be a cakewalk… be very expensive… serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy… could be bloody… a military campaign very likely would have to be followed by a large-scale, long-term military occupation…
[T]he central point is that any campaign against Iraq…. is certain to divert us… from our war on terrorism… virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq… would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy… making any military operations… difficult and expensive… Ignoring that clear sentiment would result in a serious degradation in international cooperation with us against terrorism… we simply cannot win that war without enthusiastic international cooperation…
we should be pressing the United Nations Security Council to insist on an effective no-notice inspection regime for Iraq… senior administration officials have opined that Saddam Hussein would never agree… if he did, inspections would serve to keep him off balance and under close observation… if he refused, his rejection could provide the persuasive casus belli which many claim we do not now have… evidence that Saddam had acquired nuclear-weapons capability could have a similar effect.
Here’s the reality.
One, Sullivan is repeating the same disingenuous bullshit in favor of this war when he said “Well, there wsa a pretty major potential downside of trusting Saddam Hussein in 2002.” There was not then nor ever a need to TRUST Saddam Hussein. That’s what weapons inspectors were for. Many people supported the president’s hostile stance towards Saddam when it was geared towards disarming him through the UN process. It wasn’t until February, when it became clear that the President intended to invade, not just in spite of the inspections process but because the inspections process was proving the case for war was CRAP, that many people came around to the idea that this was a really really bad idea.
Two, Scowcroft was right then and is still right now about the risks, dangers and costs of this stupid and thankless war. Sullivan still can’t admit that he was wrong to dismiss the concerns others had, before the war, in realtime, even as he talks a little more frankly about them now.