June 29, 2004

Another Liberal Hawk is Down

Michael Ignatieff admits that he has no place to hide:

The New York Times > Magazine > The Way We Live Now: Mirage in the Desert: ...the administration's arrogance. Gen. George C. Marshall began planning the postwar occupation of Germany two years before D-Day. This administration was fumbling for a plan two months before the invasion. Who can read Bob Woodward's ''Plan of Attack'' and not find his jaw dropping at the fact that from the very beginning, in late 2001, none of the civilian leadership, not Rice, not Powell, not Tenet, not the president, asked where the plan for the occupation phase was? Who can't feel that U.S. captains, majors and lieutenants were betrayed by the Beltway wars between State and Defense? Who can't feel rage that victorious armies stood by and watched for a month while Iraq was looted bare?

Someone like me who supported the war on human rights grounds has nowhere to hide: we didn't suppose the administration was particularly nice, but we did assume it would be competent. There isn't much excuse for its incompetence, but equally, there isn't much excuse for our naivete either....

For Ignatieff to say that there is "no excuse" for his assumption that the Bush administration was competent is not satisfactory: Ignatieff needs to tell us what chain of thought could possibly have led him to the assumption that the Bush administration was competent--or to the belief that a successful postwar reconstruction of Iraq was possible without 100,000 Arabic-speaking MPs. <.p> Posted by DeLong at June 29, 2004 01:36 PM | TrackBack | | Other weblogs commenting on this post

Comments

Didn't we have 100,000 arabic speaking MPs, in the Iraqi army?

On another note, one can have fully expected Bush's incompetence and disinterest to screw up the rebuilding of Iraq and still have been willing to take the slim chance of his stumbling through it to oust Saddam. We don't get so many chances to use the US armed forces to kill dictators that we can afford to let one pass by just because the President's dementia will leave chaos behind.

Posted by: Gordon on June 29, 2004 01:54 PM

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there's very few things that get me more riled up than the 'yeah, i supported the war but i didn't think bush would screw it up so bad!' defense. how could you NOT think that george w. bush would screw up the ESTABLISHMENT OF A DECENT, STABLE IN THE LONG-TERM IRAQ? i would have doubted if it could be done by a combination of fdr, lincoln and jefferson let alone the goofball we have as president right now.

so, yeah, i'm glad a lot of you 'liberal hawks' got to feel tough by supporting the war but keep your defenses to yourself. your thinking was completely off and there's really no excuse on why you would blunder so badly.

Posted by: cursedpiratemonkey on June 29, 2004 02:10 PM

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>We don't get so many chances to use the US armed >forces to kill dictators that we can afford to >let one pass by just because the President's >dementia will leave chaos behind.

If it leads to more dictators rising out of the chaos, how do you justify the deaths and the wasted resources? No, the only justification for such an extreme policy is that it worked. "Working," when so much is sacrificed, does not mean just the apprehension of one hateful murderer.

Posted by: sm on June 29, 2004 02:34 PM

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Hell, it would have helped quite a bit if they'd had the foresight to provide lightweight, folding Arabic-language signage for security checkpoints and such.

Much better than yelling "stop!" at a vehicle and then riddling the occupants with 20mm rounds.

Posted by: Jon H on June 29, 2004 02:46 PM

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While I think that the belief that a successful postwar reconstruction of Iraq was possible without 100,000 Arabic-speaking MPs is indeed inexcusable, I do feel it's a little unfair to slam Ignatieff for the assumption that the Admin was competent. I opposed the war (I think you need to meet a very high threshold of public justification for war, and that was not offered), I oppose Bush and his administration just about as viscerally as anyone else--and even I couldn't have imagined that they would be that incompetent. If someone had come up to me before the war and said, "The administration will have no backup plan in case Chalabi cannot assume power" I would have smiled, nodded, and backed away.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on June 29, 2004 03:07 PM

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should be "THAT incompetent." It kind of makes no sense without the emphasis.

Posted by: Matt Weiner on June 29, 2004 03:30 PM

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Yet another tedious confession from Our Prominent Pundits that wishful thinking was the basis of their foreign policy views. These people should be fired -- there are plenty of good writers and sane thinkers who didn't go all warm and pink when Bush waved the flag and spoke of freedom who should replace them, int he foreign policy quarterlies, Time and Newsweek, and especially NYT Sunday mag. Ignatieff is just saying this to justify remaining a well-paid hack. Give me Stephen Glass!

Posted by: paulo on June 29, 2004 03:32 PM

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I wrote about Ignatieff back in March when he first sort of admitted he was wrong. I was shocked that he didn't understand that "intentions shape consequences". see:

http://econ4dean.typepad.com/lerxst/2004/03/intentions_do_s.html


Posted by: lerxst on June 29, 2004 04:06 PM

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I think you guys are a bit too harsh. The evidence that the Bush administration was corrupt was indisputable. The evidence that the Bush administration was incompetant mostly wasn't available before the invasion. His administration had/has many experienced administrators, so even now explaining their incompitance is tough. The best I can come up with is that they are just so very corrupt that stealing occupies too much of their time to allow for good government.

Posted by: Frank on June 29, 2004 04:09 PM

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I think you guys are a bit too harsh. The evidence that the Bush administration was corrupt was indisputable. The evidence that the Bush administration was incompetant mostly wasn't available before the invasion. His administration had/has many experienced administrators, so even now explaining their incompitance is tough. The best I can come up with is that they are just so very corrupt that stealing occupies too much of their time to allow for good government.

Posted by: Frank on June 29, 2004 04:10 PM

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Sorry Frank, but the evidence that theBush neocons always had their eyes on invading Iraq and deposing Saddam long before 9-11, without any real plan to follow up, was always there. Just look at what the Project for New American Century was about. Everything grew from their late-1990s determination that axing Saddam would save the universe (and Israel!) It led to "proving" Saddam's WMD, connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda and 9-11, sidlining the UN and declaring that deposing Saddam would bring peace and love and happiness and Texas-style Freedom to the entire non-Christian world. Starting from a lie ensured they couldn't and wouldn't do it right, and there were a whole lot of people who understood that. Ignatieff and all the others could have easily understood the reality from the Bush support for Sharon in early 2001, with declarations that the Palestinians could have Freedom and Democracy without having a state. How bizarre, how bizarre.

Posted by: paulo on June 29, 2004 05:26 PM

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Its more global: what, exactly, in the background of George W. Bush, led people to believe that he could successfully lead a project of the magnitute of the post-war pacification and reconstruction of Iraq? Harken? The Texas Rangers? The Texas governorship?

Posted by: John Dillinger on June 29, 2004 05:46 PM

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As Carlos Fuentes used to say about Latin America: just leave us alone and we'll worry about our own dictators; they are our problem not yours. And so it should have been with Saddam Hussein; it is only high arrogance and stupidity to think that we have the responsibility or the right to invade and occupy another country because of what that regime does to its own people. Anybody who has seen the horrible impact of US aggression on Latin America (all under the cloak of democracy and freedom) cannot help but have this point of view. Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Cuba, and now Columbia.

Posted by: X on June 29, 2004 05:54 PM

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In fact, the Administration DID have some sound planning for post-war transition - the so-called Iraq Project, drawing upon the expertise of Middle East experts primarily ensconced in the State Department. This team of experts spent months looking at likely contingencies as to what might happen after the war ended and laying out plans for dealing with them.

However, neither Cheney or Rumsfeld viewed those "wimps" at State with anything other than barely disguised contempt.

So, when the first Provisional Authority head, Jay Garner, hired the head of the Project to help guide him (doing so because he was one of the best qualified people Garner could find to help him, given his lack of experience in Middle East culture or politics) it didn't take Dick and Don long to put an end to that. Garner was told that he had to fire the expert and that the order to do so came from "a power higher than me." Reportedly the firing directive came from Rumsfeld at the instigation of Cheney.

In retrospect, the reports have it, the findings of the Iraq Project were eerily accurate in predicting the problems. Unfortunately those predictions, and proposals to address them, were tossed in the dumpster. Garner was fired and replaced with Bremer who made the immediate mistake of disbanding the Iraqi Army, hiring a cadre of virtually unqualified party loyalists to run things, and spending most of his time in a drive to "privatize" the Iraqi economy. The end results are all too painfully obvious.

I originally thought Garner was an awful choice at the start, but it now appears he had one thing none of his successors had....a knowledge that he didn't know squat and desperately needed some expertise to guide him. Now he looks like a genius.

Posted by: dweb on June 29, 2004 06:03 PM

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"[What] could possibly have led him to the assumption that the Bush administration was competent"

Straight out of Friedman: Assumptions are counterfactuals we use to simplify the phenomenal world we try to explain. The operative word being "counterfactual".

Posted by: ogmb on June 29, 2004 06:21 PM

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When these liberal hawks disdainfully announce that their only mistake was assuming that Bushco was competent, I don't buy it.

As Bob Dylan would say, "You just wanted to be on the side that's winning." These guys were making career moves: "you had no faith to lose and you know it."

Posted by: The Wild-eyed Fool on June 29, 2004 06:22 PM

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"You just wanted to be on the side that's winning."

In Wall Street speak, they were not hawks but fully vested doves.

Posted by: ogmb on June 29, 2004 06:25 PM

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d-squared semi-famously argued thus:

::

[G]ive me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:

1. It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
2. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
3. It wasn't in some important way completely fucked up during the execution.

::

Dateline: February 26th, 2003. His more recent reflections (especially 'Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance') are also salient here.

I do have trouble with the growing number of comments along the lines of: 'I was a liberal hawk therefore my acknowledgement, now, of this fuckup is more valid than those who expected a fuckup.' Because if there'd have been more belloskeptics in the outset, there might just have been a different outcome.

Posted by: nick on June 29, 2004 06:27 PM

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The evidence that the Bush administration was incompetant mostly wasn't available before the invasion.

um, 9/11? we already knew about colleen rowley, the phoenix memo, stovepiping etc. never mind that no one lost their job over it. as david rees put it "was that somehow NOT the most colossal fuckup ever?" i don't see where this faith in their competence would come from.

Posted by: flatulus on June 29, 2004 07:45 PM

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If memory serves me, our esteemed host was another in league with the liberal hawks.

I - and several other folks posting here before the Iraq invasion - pretty much very accurately predicted the future concerning that adventure, but Brad wasn't buying it at that time.

I'd be interested to hear Brad's confession of what led him to similar optimism as Ignatieff.

I have a lot of respect for Brad as an economist and as a generally intelligent man, so his revelations should be enlightening.

Posted by: avedis on June 29, 2004 09:32 PM

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The real point NOW is that Ignatieff is saying we need to GET OUT as soon as prudent.
Too bad another JFK, Messr. Kerry, seems to think we need to hang around a few years.

Posted by: Steve Snyder on June 29, 2004 10:02 PM

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Re: "If memory serves me, our esteemed host was another in league with the liberal hawks. I - and several other folks posting here before the Iraq invasion - pretty much very accurately predicted the future concerning that adventure, but Brad wasn't buying it at that time. I'd be interested to hear Brad's confession of what led him to similar optimism as Ignatieff."

Well, I thought it likely would turn into yet another neocolonial mess (as it has), but I had a failure of imagination. Given the risks and the dangers, it seemed to me inconceivable that the Bush administration would embark on the venture unless Saddam Hussein had nukes almost ready to go--unless there were clear and present dangers to leaving him in power and harassing him with sanctions for another year.

So I believed there was hot and reliable intelligence which could not be shared, and which made invasion thinkable.

As I said, I failed to imagine that the Bush administration could be as feckless in making its decision to invade as it has proved to be.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on June 29, 2004 11:25 PM

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If I recall, Richard Nixon had a "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam...

Posted by: john c. halasz on June 30, 2004 01:33 AM

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Supporting the war always meant supporting the war as it was going to be fought, not how it should have been. De Long is right, how did any of the supossed Liberal Hawks come to the conclusions that a cabinet containing extremists such as Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Feith, Cambone, and outside advisers such Perle, with a general Tommy Franks, whose only independence was asking Rumsfeld what he wanted for breakfast, could have made a success of this thing? Thats why so many people were against it because a group of extremist nutcases were in charge!!!

Only a man dumb enough to send the Army of the second most hated nation in the Middle East (narrowly behind Israel), and being blind to this fact, could honestly believe they could make it work. Only intellectual laziness and dishonestly would allow people to believe that Operation Iraqi freedom could ever be anything other than a complete and unmitigated disaster.

Posted by: Jeremy on June 30, 2004 02:19 AM

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As Bob Dylan would say, "You just wanted to be on the side that's winning." These guys were making career moves..."

ding. And some folks were making them on spec.

Posted by: julia on June 30, 2004 05:14 AM

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Dweb is absolutely right. The State and Defense Departments, with the support of many other agencies in the US government, are constantly preparing and updating plans such as would have been needed in post-war Iraq. The fact that the extensive, well-practiced capacity for making and executing plans was not called upon means that the Bush administration was not just incompetent, but willfully incompetent. The explanation is already on record. Evidence of plans for a post-war period would have opened the administration to accusations that war was a foregone conclusion, when the administration was still trying to preserve the impression that it was not hell-bent on war. Spin got in the way of planning. Planning was needed to have any hope of success. Going to war without planning to create the conditions for a successful society after the war extinguished any hope of success. Spin damned the war to failure.

In making early judgments about how post-war Iraq might go, a great deal depended on oneís assessment of Bush and the running of his administration. Those of us who at the time seemed cynical have been proven right. Somehow, itís OK to be cynical about John Kerry (his voting record, his military record, etc), but the press seemed to have little room for seeming cynicism about Bush in the run-up to war. Mr. Ignatieff would have had to seem cynical, or shrill, to doubt that Bush would decline to use tools at his command to make life in Iraq better after the war. But that is what Bush did. Mr. Ignatieff would also have had to turn his attention from the romance of war to the mundane issues of school books, powdered milk and electric generation in order to even contemplate the possibility of post-war incompetence. Bureaucratic pros didnít need to have an imagination to worry about the post-war situation. It was their job.

Iíve heard reports out of Iraq claiming that where water and electricity are available, there is far less violence than where those things are not available. If that is true, then there are Iraqis who have died because Bush was willfully incompetent. There are US soldiers who have died because Bush was willfully incompetent. There are US civilian workers who have died because Bush willfully incompetent. Incompetence in a president is inexcusable. Willful incompetence is unethical, horrible, intolerable.

Posted by: kharris on June 30, 2004 06:45 AM

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The fecklessness of the Bushies was pretty clear from the very beginning; I mean, just look at their tax cuts - both in terms of who they were for, and the many lies they spun about the numbers at the time.

Their incompetence wasn't so much on display: like it or not, Colleen Rowley et al. tells you more about the failures of the existing bureaucracy than it does about the Bush White House. (That PDB from August 2001, and Bush's lack of response to it, tells us plenty - but we only knew about that this year.)

Bush's other failures of competence hadn't had time to play out by the end of 2002. The tax cuts were evil, but they'd executed them well. "No Child Left Behind" hadn't yet proved to be both underfunded and overly complicated. Afghanistan still *looked* like a success, despite bin Laden's escape at Tora Bora, since the media had stopped covering it, once Iraq became the Issue Du Jour.

Still, it didn't take a lot of specialized knowledge of the Middle East to know that, while dethroning Saddam would be easy, the postwar phase would be the real proof of the pudding, especially given Iraq's deep religious and ethnic divisions. The Administration's unwillingness to engage in any prewar discussion of their plans for the postwar phase was a dead giveaway of their cluelessness. It was like watching a kid who hadn't done his homework, but was hoping to hide that fact for another day.

Posted by: RT on June 30, 2004 07:33 AM

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Many good points here. It didn't occur to me that the bushies would completely ignore the State department. I didn't know enough about the hard liners in the administration to expect that. Other people have been surprised about how hard core Cheney has become in this administration. He used to be thought of as more bipartisan (I've heard anyway).

The moment that I keep coming back to is when the administration first started to deny we were fighting a guerilla war. Thats when I saw that spin was out of control. I expected an insurgency, though not abu graib.

Posted by: Frank on June 30, 2004 08:52 AM

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I thought the Bushies competent enough to nation-build after the war in a minimally satisfactory way for two reasons.

First, an assumption that rudimentary competence existed somewhere among the hawks. They were so eager to go after Saddam, and had been advocating this for so long (over ten years, in some cases) that I thought they simply HAD to have given it some consideration. How do you plan for an invasion for 10 years and NOT have contingency plans for reconstruction? What are you doing all day in your well-funded think-tanks?

Second, an assumption of self-preservation and self-interest. I thought that since they had screwed up nearly every other domestic or foreign policy decision (bar invading Afghanistan), they had to know that Iraq was their one chance to win the election. If they messed up in Iraq, they were electoral toast. If they succeeded in Iraq, they were guaranteed a second term. Iraq was to be the proving ground for all of their theories of foreign policy and miltary transformation. Ergo, I assumed that Iraq was high enough on their list of priorities that they'd be forced to be diligent and reasonable and get it right.

As a result of these two rationales, I was willing to put aside my unease about the domestic partisan benefits that would accrue to Bush from fighting and winning the war because. I felt that even if they were successful in Iraq and the first few months after, Bush would still have a year for his post-war poll numbers to crater just like his father's.

And I was willing to give the Bushies the benefit of doubt on a lot of Iraq-related issues:
[] Perhaps Saddam had *some* WMD, or was really really close to getting them: we'd been wrong in 1991, after all.
[] Maybe we can win the war swiftly and easily with such low number of troops, even without the 4th Div and a second Turkish front: Afghanistan had been VERY impressive, and the Kurds could be good stand-ins for the Northern Alliance.
[] Instant pro-American multi-party democracy was a stretch in Iraq, but a stable secular government committed to development, liberalization, and regular transfers of power following some-what contested elections seemed possible (even if one-party, like Mexico or Japan).

Posted by: Silent E on June 30, 2004 08:53 AM

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"So I believed there was hot and reliable intelligence which could not be shared, and which made invasion thinkable.

As I said, I failed to imagine that the Bush administration could be as feckless in making its decision to invade as it has proved to be."

Interesting.........the above coming from a man who regularly blogged (at that time as well as currently) "why are we ruled by these liars", etc, etc in reference to the Bush administration's economic policies.

Bushco would lie about economics, taxation, education, etc, but not about Iraq. Why not?

Bushco offered not one plausible sliver of evidence to support any of its claims in the run up to war. Not one (and please, as I said then, those photos of "mobile germ labs" didn't fool anyone with a background in intel.)

Plenty of bluster and blah, but no substance. Didn't you ask why there was no substance, something, anything?

At bottom you, like other liberal hawks, took a man you knew to be a liar at his word that this war was unavoidable and worth the costs, whatever they may be.

Shame, shame, shame.

How can you then point at Ignatieff?


Posted by: avedis on June 30, 2004 08:59 AM

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indicators of incompetence;
a - The way Rumsfeld and his crew jerked the Armed Forces around before 9/11.
b - Leaving Arganistan before bin Laden and alQueda were finished, much less ensuring a stable nation.

Any one here remember the War Game that was done prior to the Iraqi War? The one where the people playing the opposition forces constantly smoked those playing the US ones.

Posted by: linnen on June 30, 2004 09:11 AM

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Silent E and others of similar thinking, I hear what you are saying, but you, too, took it on *faith* that the administration had done their work and had properly laid the foundations of this adventure.

Now listen carefully....WE ARE A REPUBLIC OF, FOR AND BY THE PEOPLE. WE DO NOT- MUST NOT- TAKE OUR ELECTED REP.S AT FAITH. THEY OWE US A REASONABLE DISCUSSION, EXPLANATION, AND THEN NEED OUR PERMISSION BEFORE THEY CAN GO DO BIG EXPENSIVE EARTH SHAKING THINGS IN OUR NAME.

I kept waiting for my reasonable questions to be answered. When they weren't that's when I knew we were being hustled; that and when I saw the flimsy crap presented as "evidence" of the grave and gathering danger; that and when there was an urgency to get the UN inspectors out of Iraq because they weren't finding anything; that and.........

Posted by: avedis on June 30, 2004 09:13 AM

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I justify those deaths and other costs because fighting opression is the right thing to do. Because supporting dictators is what has gotten us into this Islamist-terrorism mess in the first place. You are conflating to seperate decisions in your and others condemnations of supporting a war that was certain to be fought incompetently. The decision to depose Saddam by the force of US arms is the right one whether or not Bush subsequently decided to commit enough soldiers and money to leave something better than a friendly dictator in Saddam's place. (As somebody else noted, we didn't have the choice between The Right War and Bush's War. It was Bush's War of no war against Saddam.) And sure, Bush has lived up to my very low expectations. But we have averted teh worst friendly dictator danger as Chalabi is not in charge. Those who intended to install him have been thrawted. I'm not sure what you do mean by "working" but as long as we don't turn tail and flee the country we will eventually come to a working solution to a stable and democraticish government there. The only way we'll really fail, is by leaving too soon, abandoning Iraqis again. And against that danger Bush's stuborness and inability to assimlate new facts should, in fact, help.

Also Saddam was a hateful murderer that we helped to create. We bear some responsibility in that regard.
---
PS Bob Dylan, Schmob Dylan. You think for invasion and anti-Bush was the popular position??

Posted by: Gordon on June 30, 2004 10:08 AM

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"Gen. George C. Marshall began planning the postwar occupation of Germany two years before D-Day."

Hah! Marshall (along with Harry Hopkins) was then in England telling Churchill that FDR wanted to draw up plans for an immediate cross channel invasion--in order to relieve the pressure on Stalin in the east. Read all about it--and Churchill's hilarious refutation of it--in Churchill's memoirs:

"MR CHURCHILL opened the Conference by saying that the Committee had met to consider the momentous proposal which Mr. Hopkins and General Marshall had brought over, and which had now been fully discussed and examined by the Staffs. He had no hesitation in cordially accepting the plan. The conception underlying it accorded with the classic principles of war--namely, concentration against the main enemy. One broad reservation must however be made--it was essential to carry on the defence of India and the Middle East. We could not possibly face the loss of an army of 600,000 men and the whole man-power of India. Furthermore, Australia and the island bases connecting that country with the United States must not be allowed to fall. This meant that we could not entirely lay aside everything in furtherance of the main object proposed by General Marshall."

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 30, 2004 10:56 AM

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Btw, the actual occupation plan was drawn up by Harry Dexter White and his boss Sec'y Morgenthau. It would have been a disaster had it been followed...a disaster for the U.S., that is. Stalin would have liked it.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on June 30, 2004 11:02 AM

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Having engaged in several shouting matches with a liberal hawk in the weeks leading up to the invasion I remember perfectly well why I thought it was idiotic. The first was that it was the first move in a self-defeating foreign policy of pre-emption, which had become official doctrine in November 2002, and is in effect a declaration of perpetual war. I believed the strategy was hopelessly flawed. My hawk friend seemed to believe it was necessary after 911. Giving him that, the next question was the nature of the threat that had to be pre-empted. It didn't take a rocket scientists to understand that even if Iraq had WMD, it didn't have a delivery system that could touch us. So where's the threat? Which made me think the policy was directed to protecting Israel. The idea of a possible future threat ten years down the line seemed to stretch the meaning of 'imminent' beyond acceptability. Then there was the problem that Blix and company couldn't find any WMD, and that Saddam was giving them a lot of room to look. So where's the rush?

Like Brad (maybe some introspection on his part might inform us) I too would like to know what mixture of fact and reasoning persuaded the hawks that there was evidence out there that the administration knew and we didn't know that would warrant a pre-emptive invasion of a country that by all appearances did not threaten us.

I also recall arguing the high risk of the project and the big downside of a negative outcome. Simple decision theory.

My hawkish friend finally fell back on what I think was a lot of hawk's reasoning. 'They' (who?) attacked us. We have to hit them back. Not a very cogent reason in retrospect.

I don't think the liberal hawks have an answer. Those who think it was a good thing for Israel (but not necessarily for the United States) ought to have the integrity to come out and say so (this means you, TNR).

Posted by: knut wicksell on June 30, 2004 01:50 PM

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I love the secret evidence or "the president must know things he can't tell us" argument because it concedes on the face of it that the evidence we can see is insuffiecient to suggest a threat requiring immediate invasion to defuse. "The President must see intelligence that we don't" concedes that given the intelligence we do see, his conclusions don't make sense.

That said, I support the war inspite of the fact that Iraq was no more threat to the US than Poland was to Germany in 1939. Saddam was evil, (an evil of our creation) we had a legal pretext, and a willing citizenry. How many chances do we get to do the right thing vis-a-vis murederous tyrants in this world? No pre-emption is required, nor is any foolishness about hitting back at people who didn't attack us.

Posted by: Gordon on June 30, 2004 02:05 PM

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Gordan,

The assumption behind your argument seems to be that eliminating tyrants is a good, in and of itself. Otherwise, getting rid of Saddam has to be weighed along with all the other costs and consequences of the war, as well as every other use for the resources. There were a good many critics who suggested that invading a muslim country without support from other muslims might further the cause of fundamentalist opponents of the US in the region. Now, al-Zarqawi is apparently (according to Time Magazine, anyway) aspiring to bin-Laden-like status, we are pulling 4k troops from Korea, 5600 troops out of retirement, our desert training unit onto the front lines so that our ability to train new troops for Iraq is undermined, the an ever-greater part of the public is doubting the integrity of the president, the perception of US intentions abroad is at an abysmal low, the budget process is dishonest, White House personnel engage in illegal leaks regarding the names of US intelligence agents,... just to name a few of the costs that need considering.

It is certainly a good thing to improve the lives of Iraqis, if that is in fact what we have done, but it is also a good thing to improve the lives of Somalis, Egyptians, Canadians, Liths, Lats,... you name it. Why Iraq? Because we had a legal pretext? If by pretext, you mean a pseudo-legal argument that got us far enough to start dropping bombs, is that really how you want the US going to war? Bamboozling much of Congress and some of the public? Some president down the line, one who sees a real wolf, may regret that Bush cried wolf to get us into Iraq. If by pretext, you mean a solid legal justification, um, what was that again, 'cause I don't remember hearing one?

Posted by: kharris on June 30, 2004 03:34 PM

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"But we have averted teh worst friendly dictator danger as Chalabi is not in charge. Those who intended to install him have been thrawted."

You figure Allawi would be a better friendly dictator danger than Chalabi?

Less chance he'd be friendly?

There are stories that the CIA wanted to install him as dictator back when he was getting his people to do car bombs.

Hmm. The guy just before him leading the IGC got car-bombed and all of a sudden he was the leader. The UN guy's choice for prime minister backed out, maybe he was scared? The popular alternative on the IGC backed out. Allawi says he needs to bring back the Ba'ath army and police (and secret police). He says he's going to declare martial law and delay the elections. Bremer tells him that with his sovereignty he doesn't have the authority to declare martial law, only the coalition forces can do that. So he gives it another name. He says he has to get some heavy weapons. Bremer tells him he doesn't have room in the budget for weapons, the GC military budget is all salaries and can't be changed, and nothing else can be moved around to buy weapons either, but the coalition will give him the weapons we think he needs.

It sounds like the main thing that keeps Allawi from taking Saddam's place is the coalition forces are still there and iraq is completely broke, no money except what the coalition gives it.

Posted by: J Thomas on June 30, 2004 09:25 PM

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Avedis: "WE DO NOT- MUST NOT- TAKE OUR ELECTED REP.S AT FAITH. THEY OWE US A REASONABLE DISCUSSION, EXPLANATION, AND THEN NEED OUR PERMISSION BEFORE THEY CAN GO DO BIG EXPENSIVE EARTH SHAKING THINGS IN OUR NAME."

On the one hand, yes: they should have have more evidence and should have presented it to the public. But there is (and must be) trust here: the President (and his advisors) have access to information that they necessarily cannot share because it is classified for national security reasons. We have to trust their descriptions of intelligence and their actions based on it.

We can try to seek balance in the opinions of others with access to the same information, such as other intelligence agencies, Congressional Democrats who have been briefed on the material, or foriegn governments. But even then, we are merely substituting uninformed trust of the President with uninformed trust in the judgements of others.

For WMD, I was wary of Bush's claims - I didn't think Saddam had nukes. But, although there were disputes about specific aspects of the intelligence (aluminum tubes, Scud sheds, etc.) very few who had access to the information were willing to guarantee "He has NO WMD at all" - not the French and Germans, not the Congressional Democrats. Even Hans Blix and the IAEA were only willing to say, "we cannot find the evidence." And, of course, Saddam continued to act like he was hiding the WMD - indeed, according to his scientists, he may even have believed he had them!

As for reconstruction, in fact there WERE plans made beforehand. They were simply ignored.

Was my trust misplaced? Yes. Was it irrational for me to have trusted? No. But, having had my trust violated, the proper response is to punish the violator so as to ensure that it is less likely to happen again.

Posted by: Silent E on July 1, 2004 06:23 AM

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kharis,
You're right I do consider overthrowing dictators to be a good in and of itself. Even so, you're also right that costs and benefits should be weighed. So many of those costs and benefits two years ago were so unknown that the weights one gave them mostly depended on what one thought before one started. I sitll think we should consider two seperate questions. 1. Do we use our armed forces to eliminate Saddam? 2. Do we commit enough troops, treasure, and political capital to build something resembling democracy in Iraq? Whether or not Bush decided yes or no on 2 (and I've never thought he was very committed), the right answer to 1 is still yes.

You may scoff at our legal pretext for invading Iraq, but the inviolability of international borders is still a fairly important idea. If you think world opposition to the iraq war was strong imagine the reaction to our invasion of Iran, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, or North Korea instead. Scoff at the coalition too, it is deserving of ridicule, but it would have been far smaller for any of those invasions.

Why Iraq? Because in Iraq it was possible, for once, to fight opression like we should. The war and the occupation have gone roughly as I expected, and I still support invading to oust Saddam. For me this is a two-fer. We get to fight and destroy an evil despot, and Bush gets to show us all what an incompetent bungler he is.

J Thomas,
Yes, Allawi is not good news, neither is Negroponte, but if we'd just handed the government to Chalabi as planned I'd have to be advocating another invasion for regime change in Baghdad. We're not out of the woods yet but we did dodge a bullet.

Posted by: Gordon on July 1, 2004 03:55 PM

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Gordon, we may easily be facing another invasion for regime change with Allawi too.

Something about frying pans and fires...

Ducking Peter's bullet to be hit by Paul's....

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