Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gee, Mr. Wilson

[posted by Callimachus]

Another reminder of what now seems doomed to be forgotten, at least until the real history books get written: The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam in 2003 was a convergence of American idealism and tempered realism:

It was not naive idealism, it should be recalled, that gave birth to Bush's diplomacy of freedom. That diplomacy issued out of a reading of the Arab-Muslim political condition and of America's vulnerability to the disorder of Arab politics. The ruling regimes in the region had displaced their troubles onto America; their stability had come at America's expense, as the scapegoating and the anti-Americanism had poisoned Arab political life. Iraq and the struggle for a decent polity in it had been America's way of trying to extirpate these Arab troubles. The American project in Iraq has been unimaginably difficult, its heartbreak a grim daily affair. But the impulse that gave rise to the war was shrewd and justified.

The administration's calculated gamble, of course, was to guess that the American people were too stupid or selfish to support such an effort either in geopolitical realistic or idealistic terms, and to sell it to them instead as a matter of imminent danger from WMD.

And that seemed like a good guess in 2003: The concensus of intelligence from at home and abroad was that surely something dirty would turn up after you chased Saddam out of his squalid palaces and threw open the blinds and took a look around.

[Those who profess indignation at the fact our intelligence was so wrong are either disingenuous or have been entombed in a clamshell for the past 65 years; no nation in history has sacrificed more of its capital and its principles to espionage and covert action and gotten less in return for it. But in this case it wasn't just us. Even the most vocal European opponents of the war in 2003 accepted Saddam probably had something up his sleeve.]

And even if by some surprise nothing fresh and nasty did turn up, that surprise would be a non-issue for most folks if the emergent Iraqi nation was felt to be steering toward a thriving and peaceful destiny.

To crib a phrase: There are lazy presidencies and there are lucky presidencies, but there are no lazy, lucky presidencies.

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