February 4, 2007

Edwards: Obama was only right about Iraq because he wasn't burdened with the information I had.

On "Meet the Press," Tim Russert confronts John Edwards with a quote from Barack Obama that pre-dates the Iraq war:
[I] know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the middle east, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
Russert challenges Edwards: "His judgment was on the money."

Edwards' response is a classic:
He wasn't burdened like a lot of us with the information that we were receiving on the intelligence committee and as members of the United States Senate. We were getting very detailed, intimate information about what was actually happening in Iraq.
Get it? Obama was in the Illinois legislature. It's so easy to be right when you're not burdened with information.

Anyway, Edwards said he was sorry, sorry, sorry. How many times does he have to tell you he's sorry?

Kiss me, America

Kiss me, America.


Freder Frederson said...

So basically, Edwards is saying Obama was burdened with a string of the lies being fed to him by the Bush administration. Too bad even four years later, some people, including Ann, can't accept that we were duped into war by a dishonest White House.

Those of us who simply didn't trust Bush and his enablers were vindicated. Yet you still try to blame all the disasters on us. How can that be?

Freder Frederson said...

Obama wasn't burdened

Ann Althouse said...

Please address this post, which is about the struggle for the Democratic nomination between Obama and Edwards. This isn't a post about me.

Mark Daniels said...

I try to be very fair to people. But Edwards' statement is one of the silliest things I've ever known of a major presidential candidate to say.

He might as well have said: "If Obama had been in possession of as much information as I had, he would have done this thing for which I'm so sorry, sorry, sorry. As President, I promise that I will make all my decisions without being burdened by any information."

He might want to rethink that approach.

Mark Daniels

Ann Althouse said...

In Edwards defense, I think he's really saying that it was easy to say all those things -- which were just the anti-war position of the time -- when you were ensconced in a state legislature so that nothing turned on your opinion and where your constituents were against the war. If you had been in Congress, listening to what we heard, it would not have been easy for you. It turned out that we heard a lot that was wrong, but we all thought it was true and we were doing our best at the time. We don't get to see what you would have done under the same circumstances, and that happens to benefit you politically now, but Americans are smart enough to see the whole picture.

Unknown said...

It's a pretty slick dodge. The poor Senator swallowed the same danged lies that Clinton was pushing in 98, but maybe they were truthy then and not really lies until President Bush made identical arguments. Of course, he can't say that, though

Bissage said...

I could be wildly off base here but my take on Edward’s tap dance is that he’s saying: (1) I acted reasonably under the circumstances given the best information available at the time which turned out to be faulty; and (2) Obama tossed off a lucky guess. Edwards is saying he shouldn’t be blamed for others’ mistakes and Obama shouldn’t be praised for others’ mistakes. Edwards figures he wins a tie.

My two cents.

vnjagvet said...

I think that a bit of courage on Edward's part might sell better.

Something like:

"We really had no choice. Saddam was pulling our chain, the UN's chain and the IAEA's chain. Hell, even Joe Wilson found out that the 16 words in the President's SOU speech were well founded. Based on the information of two administrations, and the CIA's best guess scenarios, we were all right when we voted to invade Iraq. But we need a change in direction and strong leadership. I am the guy that can provide it. Trial Lawyers Rule. Don't F*** with them."

Now there's a guy I would vote for!!!!

But I don't think it would sell with Freder's crowd.

vbspurs said...

This woulda-if-I-coulda explanation reminds me of what St. Thomas Aquinas used to say, about studying "heathen" writers like Aristotle, Plato, and Virgil.

Thomists said that if Aristotle and Co. had known of Jesus Christ back in the day, they surely would've been Christian.

Thus, it was okay to read them. :)


Simon said...

But Obama wasn't right. He only looks right at first glance, because of course we can see that we went into Iraq and that it is now a mess. That has the ring of truthiness. But read Obama's statement more closely: he suggested that the chaos and the problems would necessarily stem from the invasion of Iraq, and I reject that. In line with my comments here, I think that "the" Iraq conflict is already divisable into at least three clearly distinct phases, and I believe that it is flat-out wrong to suggest that what transpired in phase 2 was a direct result of the decision to carry out phase 1. That gives the Bush administration too much credit; the mess in Iraq was not the inevitable fruit of the invasion, it was the fruit of a catstrophic series of misjudgements and mistakes by this administration. Obama is totally wrong that "an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the middle east." What fanned the flames was the failure of the administration to pick and provide for an appropriate post-Saddam Iraq. What fanned the flames were the mistakes after the liberation that ushered in phase 2.

Criticizing the decision to go into Iraq because of the mess resulting from post-invasion mistakes is a non sequitur, and it's a false dilemma to think either Edwards or Obama are correct - they are both wrong, but Edwards was at least right before he was wrong.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I attended the rally that Edwards held in his adopted hometown of Chapel Hill when he announced he was running for President.

Knowing that these things always take forever to get started, in this case to ensure that local TV stations would air him live, I arrived early to get a good view.

It was amusing to watch one of his advance men teach the people who were to be on stage with Edwards how to cheer and what to hold up as they did so.

Such authentic enthusiasm from devoted supporters.

Incidentally, as best I could tell, everyone at the rally was white, if not, wealthy. (The rally was held in one of the town's highest income neighborhoods.) Even though Chapel Hill (and central N.C.) has a substantial African-American population, I don't recall seeing a single black face.

danny said...

Those of us who simply didn't trust Bush and his enablers were vindicated. Yet you still try to blame all the disasters on us. How can that be?

Maybe it's because you make allegations with no proof whatsoever in your criticisms of those who actually had proof and made decisions based on that proof.

By the way, please tell us how Bush manipulated the intelligence gathered during the Clinton administration that made the same arguments against Sadam, which, by the way, is the same information Mrs. Clinton herself based her decision to go to war on?

And, was Bush also responsible for the lies of the French, Russians, Germans, Saudis, the UN, etc, etc, etc? Was he also responsible for the regime change policy enacted by President Clinton for the same reasons(oops..lies) given by President Bush?

And as for Obama and others like him, well, even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then. Always calling for the worst to happen doesn't make you a wise seer once it finally happens. It's like those bear market investment analysts who always call for the market to crash and burn; eventually, it will.

danny said...

the mess in Iraq was not the inevitable fruit of the invasion, it was the fruit of a catstrophic series of misjudgements and mistakes by this administration.

That's not really accurate either. You don't see the Afghanis killing one another. What's happening in Iraq now is the fault of Iraqis. We gave them an opportunity to achieve peace and prosperity. They have instead chosen chaos.

SMGalbraith said...

Edwards cannot, of course, claim that he was lied to or mislead by the evil Bush Administration.

For he claimed then and claims now that he was informed of the WMD programs of Saddam's by Clinton Administration officials. They, he says, told him about the intelligence that Iraq continued to have biological and chemical weapons and were trying to reconstitute their nuclear program.

He's trapped.

The partisan moderate said...

I am actually more concerned about Tim Russert's role as moderator. Russert has increasingly being showing his political affiliation in recent interviews. He has been significantly harder on Republicans and Democrats.

Even comment, saying Obama was on the money is highly inappropriate. I only tuned into the second of the interview but he allowed Edwards' broad latitude to come up with a pie in the sky proposal and only interjected after a long period of time to press for any kind of specifics.

That is not fair and balanced. As for Edwards, his chance of winning the nomination is really remote. His comment regarding gay marriage was a real cop out. He said he wasn't there yet, which means he is telling liberal interest groups that he will eventually support it (once elected) but is telling the general public that he is against gay marriage.

The partisan moderate said...

A better interview would have confronted Edwards to renounce George Soros recent comments and would have pressed Edwards more on his non-sensical explanation of his own recent very harsh criticisms of the President, where he basically said he was a bad person who did not have the country's interests at heart.

Russert might also have pressed him on Iran. Edwards' conclusion regarding the current ruler's popularity may or may not be true but say he does win another "election", what would Edwards do then or say the new prime minister is just as bad. Remember Khatami, is considered a "moderate" by Iranian standards. Edwards, seemingly just wanted to offer carrots and his stick seemed pretty weak.

Simon said...

I'm not sure that Iraq and Afghanistan are comparable situations.

First, Newt Gingrich has observed that we could have sent a light force into Iraq had we immediately retained the Iraqi army and turned power over to the Iraqis, or we could have taken the approach that we actually took had we been willing to commit the troops and resources that are necessary for such an occupation. Afghanistan is an example of the latter, but in Iraq, we tried to carry out the "heavy" approach without the forces in place that it required. Seen this way -- and I agree with Gingrich -- the problem wasn't necessarily that we established a kind of viceroy, it was that the Bush administration refused to support its governing strategy with the troops that strategy required. None of this, of course, vitiates the two key failures, the first of which was disbanding the Iraqi Army and the failure to stop the rioting after Saddam left Baghdad and to establish immediate order.

Second, you overlook the centrifugal forces at play. While Afghanistan has tribal divisions, it has existed as a unified nation-state since 1747, when Ahmad Shah Durrani was crowned as its first king. Iraq, on the other hand, was invented by the League of Nations as part of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire; it is a state with three separate and distinct nations. Those divisions are exacerbated in Iraq with a recent history of religious strife, of which Saddam's regime was a part, since he brutally oppressed the Shiites. Even if there was no outside impetus pushing the Iraqis into conflict (and obviously that is not the case), I think it would always have been more likely that if either country was going to erupt into a brutal Yugoslavia-style civil war (which is what Iraq is - Afghanistan has seen its share of civil wars, but those wars have been over control of the nation, and are much closer to the Russian civil war than the collapse of Yugoslavia), it would be Iraq not Afghanistan.

Lastly, I think you're wrong to assume that "the Iraqis" have chosen violence. That assumes that the vast majority of Iraqis do not simply want to get on with life, and that the militias are representative of the population at large. Timothy McVeigh did not speak for everyone in America who didn't like the Clinton administration; why would we assume that these militias are representative of Iraqi population at large? A few idiots can (and as anyone who follows events in Israel will tell you, often do) ruin it for everyone.

I'm not trying to excuse the people who are actually carrying out the violence, but it cannot be avoided that a lot of the strife that has engulfed Iraq is a direct consequence of a series of catastrophically stupid blunders by the Bush administration. And I am hardly the only supporter of the war who thinks so.

Revenant said...

Edwards is right, more or less. The best evidence available to America and to our allies was that Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and was trying to get nukes. That's the information Bush, Clinton, Edwards, et al, had access to.

Inasmuch as Obama was right, he was right due to luck, not reasoned decision-making.

Unknown said...

You are so harshly critical of Edwards' judgement, but he came to the conclusion that Bush and Cheney led him to.

Where is your harsh criticism of Bush or Cheney's judgement? After all, Edwards did what you wanted him to do: he believed the president and gave him the authority to wage war in the middle east. You have been defending that course of action ever since, and it was the very conclusions of Edwards' that you are now attacking which put us on this course. You defend this course to this day.

Are you trying to have it both ways? It was good when Bush and Cheney did it, but not when Edwards did it? Or are you punished Edwards for his change of heart by attacking him for having once held your views, and voting as you wanted him to?

Or is it simply about attacking Democrats to help the Republicans retain control of the White House so that we continue our present course?

Freder Frederson said...

Maybe it's because you make allegations with no proof whatsoever in your criticisms of those who actually had proof and made decisions based on that proof.

Proof? You have an odd standard of proof. Usually proof requires ultimate truth. You usually don't say, "I had proof this was true but it turned out not to be". The more proper statement would be, "I thought I had proof, but it turned out to be wrong" or in the case of something that will cost $700 billion and has already cost nearly 29,000 U.S. casualties "I thought I had proof, but it turned out to be horribly and disastrously wrong, please forgive me"

Why do you keep perpetrating the lies?

What exactly was this intelligence that "everybody" thought was true that turned out to be wrong. What is the intelligence that was left over from the Clinton administration and the French British, Saudis, etc. believed. That Saddam had not destroyed his stockpiles of WMDs.

But the administrations claims went way beyond that. According to them, especially Cheney, there was "no doubt" that Saddam had reconstituted his nuclear programs and was actively producing chemical and biological weapons. Rumsfeld assured us we knew "exactly" where the stockpiles of chemical weapons were and even Colin Powell showed us drawings of mobile biological weapons labs and told us about purchases of aluminum tubes that were useless for purposes other than uranium centrifuges (which the DOE had already told the administration they could not be used for). Then there were the imputed contacts between Al Qaeda and Saddam. None of this intelligence was believed by everyone.

And even in the case of the stockpiles of chemical weapons, events on the ground were beginning to make that conventional wisdom look dubious. With inspectors given almost complete freedom in Iraq and the U.S. telling them where to look (after all didn't Rumsfeld tell us we knew exactly where the weapons were), the inspectors simply weren't finding any. It was becoming apparent, that contrary to all logic, Saddam had indeed destroyed his weapons, but pretended he had retained them.

Simon said...

ASX - I think Ann already addressed that in her 3:10 PM comment...

SMGalbraith said...

As most of us knew, we're getting sidetracked over the pre-war intelligence.

Former Clinton State Department official Ken Pollack summarized what he thought he knew:


If after reading this, one still thinks that Bushco lied, I can't help you. Nobody can.

Simon said...

"As most of us knew, we're getting sidetracked over the pre-war intelligence."

And, to be clear, it is a sidetrack. "I was never particularly interested in the WMD issue, and so the left's bleating about how we never found any ... has never really carried any water with me." Not all of us supported the war did so out of fear of what Saddam might have up his sleeve, but out of facts that are in many cases beyond dispute: the moral obligations created by our arming of Saddam with the weapons he used to subdue his population, our perfidy towards the shiites in 1992, the nature of Saddam's regime and the clear and present danger it posed to the Iraqi population and his neighbors. Would it have been better for the administration to rest the liberation of Iraq on factors other than WMD? Sure. Were those factors in play in the decision? Sure. The administration picked the reason they thought would sell best, and ran with that, but if that reason turned out to be flawed, that doesn't much trouble me. It vitiates neither the rightness of the decision to go to Iraq nor the scale of the adminitration's incompetence in messing up the post-liberation Iraq.

PeterP said...

The best evidence available to America and to our allies was that Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and was trying to get nukes. That's the information Bush, Clinton, Edwards, et al, had access to.

Errr...no. The best evidence available to the UK was precisely that whatever the bloated monster may have wanted to believe he had, he was nowhere near having any such credible, effective arsenal and absolutely no intention of using whatever firecrackers he actually had to hurt Western interests.

That was what our intelligence services told this Government, who then lied to this people with deliberately false 'dossiers' and claims of 45 minute strike capability. (Not even 'truthiness' it was plain, old fashioned deceitiness.)

The was no military or political imperative to invade Iraq and as for the all too predictable consequences of collapse into sectarian conflict - well, that was precisely what people who knew the country strongly warned USA and UK about.

Although I cannot claim to have been present at the relvant meetings it is clear that the dialogue went something like this:

Bush/Blair: "We're going to invade Iraq, so what do you make of that assholes?"

Intelligence services: "Tell me you're joking you morons."

Bush/Blair: "Do you see me laughing?"

Simon said...

SMGalbraith - having read the article you linked to, I just don't see how you can assert that it proves that "Bushco lied" - it clearly and repeatedly stands for a completely different proposition: they were sincere, but wrong. If the Atlantic piece is to be believed, the administration believed that the CIA was biased, and they believed that Saddam was a threat. The author says, in as many words, that having surveyed what other countries' intelligence services believed about Saddam Hussein in mid-2002, "[i]n sum, no one doubted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction."

If this piece stands for any proposition, it is quite the opposite: that the administration was absolutely sincere in its beliefs, although it was dysfunctional or even negligent in the manner in which it moved information through the chain of command on which to base decisions. That's the import of the section titled "The Politics of Persuasion," which further establishes that the administration was sincere. But being wrong is not the same thing as lying.

I have no dog in this race, because as I made clear in my previous comment, I didn't and don't care about the WMD issue. But I fail to see how you can offer that article in support of that argument when it completely repudiates your view.

Freder Frederson said...

The article cited by smgalbraith contains this warning, which many of you still haven't taken to heart:

"When the United States confronts future challenges, the exaggerated estimates of Iraq's WMD will loom like an ugly shadow over the diplomatic discussions. Fairly or not, no foreigner trusts U.S. intelligence to get it right anymore, or trusts the Bush Administration to tell the truth. The only way that we can regain the world's trust is to demonstrate that we understand our mistakes and have changed our ways."

The Emperor said...

Regardless of who's right, I think Obama is the clear winner of this round. Most Americans disapprove of the war, and he is on record of having been against it from the start.

But as for the right and wrong part, Simon said: "the mess in Iraq was not the inevitable fruit of the invasion, it was the fruit of a catstrophic series of misjudgements and mistakes by this administration." I disagree with this. I think it was pretty clear from the start that nation building in Iraq would be extremely difficult, and major conflict between the Sunnis and Shia was inevitable. I don't see any reason to think that a different approach would have made the current situation any better.

Mark the Pundit said...

Russert also tried to ask Edwards if Obama was experienced enough to be President, having spent only a few years in the Senate.

Edwards did not take the bait, as he was just as inexperienced as Obama when he threw his hat into the ring himself 4 years ago.

But, if you include all political experience, Obama is more qualified than Edwards today!

Strange Anomaly said...

I think there is a great deal of smoke concerning the vote to authorize the use of military force in Iraq. A lot of the smoke comes from not recognizing what the vote actually did and secondly not recognizing the context in which the vote was taken.

First of all the setting. Prior to the AUMF, Saddam Hussein refused to allow inspectors back into Iraq. Given that there was considerable intelligence that could lead one to conclude that he had WMD, it legitimately caused a lot of people a great deal of concern.

So when the vote occurred the following things were known. First, there was considerable intelligence that suggested that Saddam possessed WMD and second, Saddam was refusing to allow inspectors into the country to verify his claims that he did not possess them. In this context, voting to give the president the authority to use military force made a great deal of sense. Saddam wasn't budging and we had concerns about potential WMD programs. In addition, providing the President authority created additional leverage to force Saddam to cooperate. Consequently, I think that given the context of what was going on, providing George W. Bush authority was not a clear error. Especially if one assumes that the President would use the authority prudently.

Congress gives the President authority and what happens? Congress votes on September 11th 2002 and Saddam caves and agrees to allow inspectors on September 17th. So the vote worked and Saddam blinked. Given this, it seems to me that the vote itself isn't a mistake. If one assumes the President would act prudently.

Okay what happens next? The UN Inspectors enter the country and begin the inspection process. As part of the inspection process the inspectors discover that some of the intelligence that we were relying on was erroneous. Despite that the administration starts their public relations campaign toward the war. On March 18th Dick Cheney says the following: On March 18, 2003, President Bush says the following.

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.
George Bush March 18, 2003

However, the Defense Intelligence Agency apparently believed there was some doubt.

Two months after the September 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency report (see September 2002)—which found there was no conclusive evidence Iraq has chemical weapons—another secret document titled, “Iraq’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapon and Missile Program: Progress, Prospects, and Potential Vulnerabilities,” is completed. It also says in very clear terms that there is no solid proof that Iraq has chemical weapons.

So exactly what is the administration relying on when they say there was no doubt? It seems that there is “some doubt”. The lie was telling the American people that there was “no doubt”. They seemed to have intentionally oversold the intelligence information that they had.

The Bush administration decides that it is going to invade Iraq prior to the completion of the UN Inspection process and without another vote before the UN. At this point, one might legitimately conclude that their vote on September 11th was a mistake because the assumption that the President was going to act prudently was in error.

With respect to Obama being lucky. I don't think Obama was lucky I think he was right and I think he had a reason to believe that Saddam was contained. Why did Obama have reason to believe that Saddam was contained? Because that is just what the White House told the American people before 911. In fact, there was a paucity of evidence to suggest that Saddam broke containment. On the issue of sectarian violence, that too was predictable. In fact the CIA was informing the administration during this period that forming a western style democracy in Iraq was likely to fail.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Old Dad said:
"The poor Senator swallowed the same danged lies that Clinton was pushing in 98, but maybe they were truthy then and not really lies until President Bush made identical arguments"

Actually Old Dad you'd be correct but during this morning's show Edwards also blamed his misinformation on detailed briefings he got from three former Clinton higher-ups who essentially backed-up the bad dope Bush was getting from the CIA.

So, Edwards trashed Bush and the Clintons on the same program. I did not hear the segment where Edwards dissed Obama in a creative way.

Seven Machos said...

Simon -- Occasionally, you read something completely brilliant that floors you because it was obvious all the time but you failed to see it. I lived in the former Yugoslavia and never saw the utterly obvious analogy between that failed state and Iraq. I am in awe. Thank you.

Fred -- No one here really pays attention to what you say. Have you noticed that? It's because your credibility has been shot with too many ad hominem attacks.

Eli Blake said...

danny (4:03) :

And, was Bush also responsible for the lies of the French, Russians, Germans, Saudis, the UN, etc, etc, etc?

As a matter of fact, before the war Jacques Chirac said quite openly that his intelligence was different from what he was hearing from the Americans and that he therefore did not believe that war was justified. There was a report that some in the Bush administration, having shown him what they 'had,' were "apoplectic" about Chirac.

I might also add that Al Gore came out strongly against the war during summer 2002 when we first began shifting the focus from Afghanistan to Iraq (he said we should have remained focused on Afghanistan) and he had also seen the same information. But he believed (as did Bill Clinton) that continuing to keep Saddam 'in a box' while perhaps working behind the scenes to support the Kurds and other domestic opponents of the regime was the best strategy.

What amazes me is that supporters of the war claim that because the policy of the Clinton administration was 'regime change' that this justified the war. There are of course many methods of achieving regime change and claiming that this policy necessarily leads to war is like claiming that because you have a goal of getting rid of mice in your home, you therefore have no other choice than to start a fire in order to smoke them out and risk burning your house down.

Finally, even if someone (i.e. Edwards) voted for the war, I would also posit that I'd rather vote for someone who can recognize and admit that he was wrong and change direction, than someone who fails to recognize that it is time to change direction when it is plainly obvious.

Laura Reynolds said...

Of course Al Gore was against the war, he was part of administration that kicked the can down the road for 8 years.

If Edwards (and Hillary) are that prone to being mislead, does that sound like a good reason to vote for them.

Sounds like they they made a political calculation that backfired.

State Senator Obama "wasn't burdened" by that problem in 2002.

Eli Blake said...

Steven R:

Kicking the can down the road sounds like pretty good strategy. If Bush had 'kicked the can down the road' for another eight years,

1) Saddam would be in essentially the same shape he was in six years ago, not even completely in control of his own country while we kept him under sanctions and 'no-fly' zones, in fact by now we might have even gotten rid of him by supporting a military coup or other similar measure behind the scenes, 2) Iran would still be living in fear of Iraq and the U.S. instead of laughing as one of their most hated enemies got rid of the other and then got stuck in quicksand, 3) we might have stayed focused on Afghanistan and maybe even have gotten bin Laden by now, 4) We'd have not already spent and hear pending budget requests now totaling in excess of $500,000,000,000 for Iraq, meaning that future taxes would not have to be raised by at least $1,600 for every man, woman and child in America just to pay for it, 5) Moqtada al-Sadr would either be as dead as his father or otherwise silent, 6) Syria would still be both in fear and in opposition to Iraq instead of helping terrorists get in there, 7) the terrorists wouldn't have one of their prime recruiting/training ground, 8) American prestige would still be worth something, 9) our intel might still be trusted, and 10) and most importantly over 3,000 of our military members would still be alive today.

So yeah, if 'kicking the can' means the policy we had towards Iraq between the end of the first Gulf War (when most of it was negotiated) and the start of the second, I'd say that 'kicking the can' was a pretty darn good strategy.

Bruce Hayden said...


The first problem with the light option in Iraq is that we really didn't know that it would work. Back to the Powell doctrine, etc. More were saying prior to our intervention that we didn't have enough troops thans said we had too many - even after our intervention in Afganistan worked so well.

More importantly, that would have left the Sunni Arab dominated military controlling the other 80% of the population, as was the case under Saddam. Was the new government going to continue his brutality in order to maintain control by such a small minority of the population? And, indeed note that Saddam's level of brutality appears to have been constantly racheting up to maintain his control as the vast majority of the population grew less and less tolerant of not having a voice in their government.

And, indeed, I think that when the violence does die down, as it will in the next year or two (given demographic trends if nothing else), Iraq will be much more stable as a result of a military run by an officer corp much closer demographically to the population than was the case before. Which is one big reason that the alleged blunder of eliminating the Baathists in the military was not such - imagine Iraq today if instead of taking on the Sunni Arab terrorists, the Iraqi military were helping them. The last thing that a democratic Iraq needed was a military controlled by the 20% Sunni Arab minority. How long until the first coup? Probably w/i months of us pulling out - which is why we would find ourselves bogged down there even longer than we will be there now.

As to Newt's suggestion that if we were going in with the big solution, instead of the small one, we should have committed the requisite forces - he should know quite well that we didn't have the forces available then to do so. Looking back, it is clear that the primary concern limiting our forces in Iraq is how many could we commit over an extended period of time. With the current levels, the military is stretched thin. If more had been committed earlier, it would have resulted in fewer being available one and two years down the road.

The reason that Newt should know better is that this problem is a direct result of the Clinton era Peace Dividend where our active military was cut significantly - for example, half the active army divisions were cut. And Gingrich was there for a lot of that.

Seven Machos said...

El Blake --

1. Do you really believe that Osama Bin Laden remains alive?

2. A saying I often hear from lawyers is "It is what it is." It's profound and useful concept. You have made a good case that we shouldn't have invaded Iraq. I do not agree with you, but you have a calm, coherent, and reasonable argument.

But so what? How long do you intend to go on lamenting what is, and what is done? Do you think it will help you defeat Bush in 2008? Does it make you feel better? Smarter? It is what it is, pal. As Colin Powell said, "You break it; you buy it."

The issue isn't whether we should invade Iraq. That's done. That's over. The issue is: what should we do about it now? You can make the case that Bush lacks the vision to create a functional state, or several functional states. You can argue that we should leave tomorrow (very dumb, but you can argue it). However, it is utterly useless to continue to debate what was the right thing to do -- from a philosophical, a political, and an electoral point of view.

Bruce Hayden said...

Obama's position is pure oportunism. He had nothing to lose, and almost as little information with which to make up his mind. What he is essentially saying is that he opposes the use of American force in almost all situations. He didn't know enough to oppose it for any real valid reasons, so is left opposing it on general principles.

Edwards is right here - he made whatever choices he made based on real information and knowing that his choice might make some difference. He had a (somewhat) hard choice. Obama didn't have enough information to make a hard choice.

And that is the insanity of the whole thing. The entire Democratic party now seems to be panicing here, and those who did make the decision to allow the President to use force based on the information that they had at the time (however flawed it turned out) are far, far, better qualified to lead this country in the War on Terror than someone who knee-jerk said: no use of American force here.

Bruce Hayden said...

I agree with Seven Machos 100%. It doesn't make a d*** bit of difference whether we should or should not have gone into Iraq. We did, and now what do we do? Do we cut and run? Redeploy to Okinawa? Or do we fix it?

The entire "Bush lied" stuff being rehashed here appears solely aimed at making those opposed now to the intervention feel better about themselves. It doesn't solve anything.

Eli Blake said...

Bruce Hayden:

To a degree you are correct, although since we keep hearing similar rhetoric being ratched up for war against other countries (Iran in particular) we should do an exhaustive study of how we got into Iraq so that we don't repeat the same mistakes.

That said, what I believe about Iraq is that 1) we should get out because I don't see any prospect that the situation will improve. Remaining in a war and losing more Americans if there is something to be achieved might be justifiable (hence I believe that we should, though we have not handled things well there, either-- remain in Afghanistan until we do in fact find and get rid of Mr. bin Laden (or have conclusive proof that he is dead). He means us harm and we must have him. But remaining when there is nothing to be achieved or doing a 'hail Mary' and throwing in what troops we have left in the hope that it will lead us to some unspecified favorable outcome is stupid and foolish. In fact, the President's proposed troop level, 160,000 troops only matches what it was during February 2005, and it was insufficient to quell the violence then.

I would propose a staged withdrawal on a timetable that gives dates for Iraqi troops to take over each and every position or duty now held by Americans in Iraq. This however is only a temporary solution:

In the long term, Iraq will fractionate, much as the Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia did. It is a made up country, with lines drawn on a map by British and French colonialists dividing the Ottoman empire after WWI. It is ultimately made up of three separate and distinct nations which don't like each other, don't want to live with each other (unless of course they get to Lord it over the others) and will sooner or later become three nations. America can play a role here but it is a diplomatic role. Three main areas of contention prevent this dissolution-- 1. borders, 2. the rights of minorities, and 3. oil revenues. For this reason the U.S. could serve as an impartial mediator and help work through these thorny issues and avoid much bloodshed (with the relatively peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union, Chechnya notwithstanding, being in sharp contrast to the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo that wracked Yugoslavia as it flew apart.) Such negotiations would also have to involve Iran and Syria, whether we like it or not because they control a great deal of what goes on in Iraq (you negotiate and work to make peace with your enemies, not just your friends; that's reality.)

Unfortunately, while there is no doubt that George W. Bush is (unlike his father) a poor diplomat, maybe the worst one I've ever seen in the White House, most of the candidates running, of both parties, are current or former U.S. Senators. In the U.S. Senate, about the only negotiation you ever do is maybe some horse trading for votes. So unless Bill Richardson (who has extensive diplomatic experience) or conceivably Mitt Romney (who has minor diplomatic experience as chair of the Olympic Committee) or Rudy Guiliani (who also has minor diplomatic experience as the mayor of the city that hosts the U.N.) gets elected, it is likely that during what may be the most important negotiations in the history of the United States, we will have a rank amateur sitting at the table across from some pretty bad characters.

Somehow a winning smile and a firm handshake don't get you very far negotiating with a ruthless dictator or someone else who frankly would blow you and your country off the map if they could. To be honest it took a Dwight Eisenhower (who had all kinds of diplomatic experience) to get us out of Korea, and a Richard Nixon (whose diplomatic experience was at least quite a bit more extensive than LBJ) to get us out of Vietnam.

Seven Machos said...

Eli -- That was awesome. I really appreciate it and I agree with much of what you have said, except the part about removing troops. What the left refuses to understand is that we are primarily there to have troops near Iran, near Syria, near Saudi Arabia, and in the Middle East.

Also, you say that Bin Laden "means us harm," and that appears to be your rationale for keeping an army in Afghanistan. Many, many people "mean us harm." Should we send troops to -- just for example -- Iran and Venezuela as well? This line of thought is a little too convenient.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I could be wildly off base here but my take on Edward’s tap dance is that he’s saying: (1) I acted reasonably under the circumstances given the best information available at the time which turned out to be faulty

One problem with this defense of Edwards is that it equally defends Bush. Bush has said he acted rightly at the time based on what he knew then and given the increased concern about low chance disasters of great magnitude.

Another problem is that it ignores how on the money Obama's analysis is. Obama's analysis wasn't just absent-minded rhetoric: there were reports and so forth. Plenty of documentation, including policy memos from the first Bush administration, existed from the first Gulf War that argued against invading Iraq. Plenty of documentation and intelligence from other countries was made public during the run-up to war. It was not only possible to formulate an educated and informed antiwar position, but a number of public figures did. It is a bit of a stretch to say Obama guessed, especially given how detailed and specific his argument against the war in Iraq was.

Mortimer Brezny said...

I think it was pretty clear from the start that nation building in Iraq would be extremely difficult, and major conflict between the Sunnis and Shia was inevitable. I don't see any reason to think that a different approach would have made the current situation any better

Exactly. This was the position of Bush the Elder. It was the position of Bush 43 when he ran in 2000. It is the standard position of the realist school of foreign policy. What is amusing is that Obama's criticism of the war is no different than Brent Scowcroft's or Henry Kissinger's.

dearieme said...

This Baghdad Osama chap seems to have shown good judgement whereas Edwards showed bad. This is surely relevant to any Democrat who is keen not to have Little Madame Cattle Futures adopted as presidential candidate.

Laura Reynolds said...

Eli Blake: Al Gore's opinion about these matters, in 2002, were so predictable as to render them meaningless. So what?

Chirac? No Oil for Food influence there.

There's a decent arguement against the invasion for many reasons but not because Al Gore or Chirac opposed it.

TMink said...

Simon, thanks for the history lesson! Much appreciated.

M. Simon said...

I'm really glad there was no A.Q Kahn and Saddam hadn't outsourced his nuke program to Libya.

If that had been true there might have been some reason for war.

What? That stuff about Kahn and Libya was true?

Never mind.

willis said...

I read your article, then the comments of your readers. The one thing I didn't read in all of this was the statement "I have considered your well reasoned arguments and accordingly have changed my point of view." To your knowledge has that ever happened? What is the point of debate if it leads to nothing but anger and insults, which seem to be supplied in abundance?

KCFleming said...

Re: "I have considered your well reasoned arguments and accordingly have changed my point of view."

You haven't read it because the "well reasoned arguments" haven't happened, just lotsa moonbatteriness, and that's not the same thing.

Henry said...

Fairly or not, no foreigner trusts U.S. intelligence to get it right anymore

I would say that's a silver lining. As Simon points out, you can justify the Iraq war without recourse to intelligence. If you have to rely on the CIA for your rationale, you don't have enough rationale. In making WMD their central justification for the Iraq war the Bush administration made their first of many blunders. And it is a telling blunder -- the biggest failing of the United States in Iraq has been strategic, the failure to declare and defend a long-term commitment to an aggressive pro-reform policy in the Middle East. The Bush administration, the realpolitic hacks exemplified by James Baker, and the isolationist Democrats all treat Iraq as a one-off -- either a one-off military campaign or a one-off mistake.

Obama's advantage over Edwards is not just that he appears to be right (at least right in sync with the Democratic message), but that his rightness is unchallengeable expect by hypothetical. Because the United States did not take the path Obama advocated, he can't be confronted with the consequences of his ideas. He's clean, as they say.

Mark said...

The Bush admin did not lie. There was a reason the entire world placed sanctions on Saddam for over a decade, because they all thought he had WMD's. Saddam clearly was not complying, and if it wasn't for the war the strongest reason which proves this wouldn't have been known: the systemic corruption of the scandals by the UN itself. The countries benefitting most from the violation of these sanctions were the most vehement opponents of the war. But liberals don't even mention this because they have such a hatred of Bush.

Quite frankly, you liberals never believed anything Bush said from the moment you thought Gore won, this is the case for every single liberal I have talked about the war with. Everything to those people is about making Bush look bad, its like what many in the GOP did with Clinton, though arguably worse because Clinton didn't have the cojones to do anything but lob some cruise missles and send out some lawyers.

The fact of the matter is that the liberal way of addressing terrorism led to 3,000 civilian deaths in one day. The conservative way (and yes, "conservative" is hotly debated) has led to 3,000 volunteer deaths in 4 years, while preventing a dictator from killing ever more people and stopping his WMD program, for which he clearly had the capacity to reconstitute, the facilities were still there and the oil money was coming in -- coming in because the UN and complicit countries like France and Russia were violating the very sanctions they voted for.

We have the Iraqi gov't behind us, the army and police forces behind us, a constitution in place, and yet we keep hearing blindly from liberals that its all gone to pot, that we need to get out. We can do this with some courage, and the likes of Obama and Edwards clearly do not have it. I am tired of the empty rhetoric from them, they refuse to address any specifics on the situation. The way liberals talk about the war -- I mean they truly think decisions have been made in a high-school manner by the Bush admin, which I think goes more to show the Liberal capacity for reason than it does to show any truth about the Bush admin.

Brendan said...

I stopped listening to the interview when Russert stated - matter of factly - that there wer no WMDs in Iraq. From StrategyPage's list of top ten myths about Iraq:

"1-No Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Several hundred chemical weapons were found, and Saddam had all his WMD scientists and technicians ready. Just end the sanctions and add money, and the weapons would be back in production within a year. At the time of the invasion, all intelligence agencies, world-wide, believed Saddam still had a functioning WMD program. Saddam had shut them down because of the cost, but created the illusion that the program was still operating in order to fool the Iranians. The Iranians wanted revenge on Saddam because of the Iraq invasion of Iran in 1980, and the eight year war that followed."

Sadam DID have WMD, and were acting like they were creating more. Since WMD's work by threat as much as by use, we must always take seriously the threat of developing them. Invading Iraq did get Lybia to hand over and stop their WMD programs.

When these facts are acknowledged then the war was justified on the main point. The other points, that we were at war already b/c sadam violated the cease fire, etc. remain true and unchallenged by Democrats. Edwards and Obama - and Hillary - have all proven themselves unserious about national security. Preffering to criticize Bush rather than offer their own strategy for finishing the job in Iraq.

Long term our commitment to help an invaded country rebuild and become prosperous is just as important as our threat of force against any unlawful country obtaining WMDs. The threat of force works to discourage and prevent evil men from attaining these weapons. The rebuilding provides a promise to those whose country we invade that unlike Romans or Western Colonial powers, we come to help, not to rule.

In the interview Edwards said that part of the reason he supported the war was the promise a new Iraq would bring to the rest of the region: I'd have asked Edwards if we are further now or closer now to achieving that promise? In my opinion while Iraq is flawed, primarily do to the high amount of terrorist activity (fueled by Al Queda and Iran) - its much closer now than it was under Sadam, to being a prosperous and free country.

People tend to have impossible standards - the violence going on in Iraq is marginal when compared to a true civil war - or vietnam. If this is a civil war then a lot of other countries are in civil war - possibly including France with their white noise riots. As for the country being cobbled together, so was the US. And it took a true civil war to finish the issue that as "thrown together" as it was - it was still inseperable.

The ability to comprehend the facts and use them as a basis for arguments by the anti Bush crowd is trumped only by their complete and utter lack of historical perspective.

Freder Frederson said...

At the time of the invasion, all intelligence agencies, world-wide, believed Saddam still had a functioning WMD program. Saddam had shut them down because of the cost, but created the illusion that the program was still operating in order to fool the Iranians

Well no, this might have been true in September of 2002. But by the time of the invasion, weapons inspectors had been crawling all over Iraq for five months and it was becoming more and more obvious that there were no ongoing programs. Furthermore, Saddam had come out and claimed that he had in fact destroyed his stockpiles but didn't have any proof of the destruction. We didn't believe him, with good reason, but still we couldn't find the stockpiles, even though Rumsfeld assured us we knew "exactly" where the stockpiles were.

So, in fact, by the time the war started, what we thought we knew in September 2002, was looking like it was very far off the mark. Post war inspections showed how horribly bad our intelligence was and that Saddam had indeed destroyed his WMD stockpiles. (And a few hundred old chemical weapon shells that escaped destruction because of poor inventory control does not constitute "proof" that Saddam possessed WMDs).

The administration did lie about the confidence they had in the evidence and the degree of certainty in it by using phrases like "no doubt" (referring to reconstituting nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs), "no other possible use" (the aluminum tubes) "we know exactly where they are" (the stockpiles of chemical weapons). None of those statements were true and the Administration possessed information that should have stopped them from using phrases conveying absolute certainty.

Freder Frederson said...

The fact of the matter is that the liberal way of addressing terrorism led to 3,000 civilian deaths in one day. The conservative way (and yes, "conservative" is hotly debated) has led to 3,000 volunteer deaths in 4 years

You seem to forget all the non-U.S. civilian deaths and even the deaths of our coalition partners and terrorist deaths in other countries.

Dave said...

He should just blame global warming.

Hey, it works for everything else.

Dave said...

"The administration did lie about the confidence they had in the evidence and the degree of certainty in it"

So did all the major Dems involved.

But it was probably just the methane talking.

Mark said...

I didn't forgot them, was trying to draw a simple analogy for you liberals in the hope that its clarity might make an impression. As macabre as it is to undergo a discussion like this, I would say the deaths as a result of our action are 1) less than those committed by Saddam and by terrorist organizations 2) go a much longer way towards stopping the killing by Saddam and the terrorist organizations, as opposed to say...what was it Obama said? Just keep the sanctions there, let him fade away while he takes a few hundred thousand more Iraqis with him, while also giving money to terrorist groups, who cause further death of innocents. I just find it amazing that you think we are to blame for terrorists and dictators killing innocent people, but it does make sense coming from folks (liberals) who believe something as ass-backwards as (gun control) preventing law-abiding citizens from carrying guns, so that only criminals and the gov't will have them.

SMGalbraith said...

aving read the article you linked to, I just don't see how you can assert that it proves that "Bushco lied" - it clearly and repeatedly stands for a completely different proposition: they were sincere, but wrong

Yes, that was my (overly sarcastic) point.

Our friend Frederick missed it too.

I think there was a study last year that determined that more than half the e-mails and posts sent/written were misunderstood by the recipient. The sender meant "A" while the receiver thought they meant "B".

I guess we need to make that fifty percent-plus one.


Kirk Parker said...

Eli Blake,

Nobody with the slightest bit of credibility thinks the sanctions regime could have lasted another half-decade.

Willis, the point of the debate, as far as I'm concerned, is for the sake of the uncommitted/uncertain onlookers. I'm betting my time and effort that there are a few...

Eli Blake said...

Seven Machos (12:41):

There is a qualitative difference however relating to bin Laden vs. others who mean us harm.

When our military is at full strength and otherwise unentangled, the threat of American military action is enough to keep characters like the mullahs in Iran and Hugo Chavez on relatively good behavior. They might dabble in local trouble spots but they know if they did something like attack the U.S., well that would end their regimes.

Bin Laden in contrast, possibly because he has less to lose (yeah, he could lose someone else's country like Afghanistan but not his own) has shown that he is not restrained by the threat of American military power. Therefore we must have him in order to 1) stop him from attacking us again, as on 9/11, and 2) demonstrate that an attack like 9/11 will result in those responsible being hunted until the ends of the earth.

Eli Blake said...


Why not? We've had sanctions on Cuba for 48 years and North Korea for 58 years.