Hit & Run

Why We Fight

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In the wake of last week's revelations about CIA and other intelligence failures, George W. Bush has issued a new, "broad" defense of going into Iraq. From the Wash Post's account:

"Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq….We removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after September 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take," Bush said….

The key U.S. assertions leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was working to make nuclear weapons -- were wrong and based on false or overstated CIA analyses, a scathing Senate Intelligence Committee report asserted Friday….

During the Clinton administration, official U.S. policy toward Iraq became "regime change" -- a stance that sought the ouster of Saddam Hussein, [Bush] noted.

But Saddam refused to open his country to inspections, Bush said.

"So I had a choice to make: either take the word of a madman or defend America. Given that choice I will defend America."

Whole thing here.

There's any number of things to say in response to this. First off might be the notion that we had already effectively contained Saddam, thus obviating the need for a preemptive strike (go here for a pre-invasion Reason debate on that issue).

Arguably what's most interesting is that Bush (at least in this account) doesn't mention the neoconservative nation/region-building rationale as a justification--that taking out Saddam allowed for the introduction of representative democracy to the Middle East, thus potentially resculpting the political character of the area. Though this is highly problematic, especially as things have actually played out, it remains to my mind the most attractive justification for the invasion and ongoing occupation (whether it can or will succeed is a wholly different matter).

The other point I'll raise here is Bush's attempt to tie the war to the Clinton administration's call for "regime change" in Iraq. I still think that the single largest factor in most Republicans' embrace of the war in Iraq is that a Republican is behind the effort. The reverse goes for the Dems: If President Gore had pushed for such an action (and I suspect that he would have, in some way, shape, or form), they would have rallied around the effort. And, of course, Republicans would have carped. One way of testing this theory, at least in part, is to look at how sides have changed since the Balkans' crises of the '90s, analyzed by Matt Welch in this excellent review essay.