Thursday, November 25, 2004

Let It Be Registered...

...that in the September 30, 2002 issue of The New Republic, MIchael Walzer in arguing about possible strategies in Iraq wrote
Without access to U.S. intelligence it is hard to judge how grave a threat Saddam poses. But let's make some commonsense stipulations: First, the Iraqis have developed chemical and biological weapons and are trying to develop nuclear weapons; second, our government isn't certain about how close they are to having a usable nuclear weapon, but as of this moment they don't have one; third, Iraq has used chemical weapons in the past, though only on its own territory during the war with Iran and in efforts to suppress the Kurds; and fourth, the Iraqi regime is sufficiently brutal internally and hostile externally -- to some of its neighbors and to the United States -- that we can't rule out its readiness to use such weapons again and more widely or to use nuclear weapons if and when it develops them.
Whatever we may say about the run-up to the war, it was an unquestioned assumption that Iraq had WMD of some sort. Could the Administration have allowed dissenting voices to be heard? Certainly, Should it have? Yes. But no one outside government was seriously arguing that Saddam did not have WMD so it is not surprising that no one in government was making that case either. We like to imagine government has some sort of omniscient body filled with brilliant beings. Yet government is made up of mortals quite like you and me: smart, perhaps, but certainly not infallible. And if there was no one outside government questioning this assumption (which a sample size of one does not prove, but I don't remember it, and Walzer would have qualified his statement if there were) then how can we expect the government to? Perhaps the intelligence was questionable, but it seems to have been questionable as to Saddam's intentions (was he actually trying to acquire materials for nuclear weapons etc.) rather than to the fact that Iraq actually possessed WMD. This is certainly not meant to be an unqualified defense of the administration, but it is meant to remind us of the context in which the debate occurred. And that the positions people took make much more sense if you remember what was known and what was not known.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good comments Isaac, however...the government (Bush et al) made it appear as if we were in danger in the US..even tried to make us believe that the danger is imminent. (Have they ever been taken to task for presenting those fake illustrations of the bio-lab trucks that were purportedly flitting about from place to place mixing up chemicals and bio-toxins?) Danger to us directly from Saddam, however, could have been deemed to be extremely remote. Bush et all make the excuse that they could have supplied terrorists with these weapons. There are few countries in the world that could not do that too, expecially germ or chemical weapons. (17 countries have the bomb.) Why aren't we attacking each and every one, given the Bush philosophy? We (congress) have given Bush an inch, and now the danger is that he will take the mile by attacking Iran and North Korea...maybe Syria, and other Arab countries. He wants to be the President who saves civilization and will do so by initiating new wars rather than using diplomacy and education. The true enemy is dispersed widely...radical Islam and the clerics and governments that allow school children to be inculcated with anti-west hate. Bush doesn't have a clue as how to fight that war. Meanwhile, the Iraq situation becoming more and more like Viet Nam.

5:43 PM  

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