Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bush Wanted War


In this morning's Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes, "Bush wanted war. He just didn't want the war he got."

Shortly after the United States invaded Iraq, I sat down and read Kenneth M. Pollack's argument for preemptive war with Iraq, The Threatening Storm. Published in 2002, the well-researched, insightful text provides a multifaceted rationale for war with Iraq, and more specifically, war with Saddam. The book opens with a rather powerful statement: "As best we [the U.S. Intelligence community] can tell, Iraq was not involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. American intelligence officials have repeatedly affirmed that they can't connect Baghdad to the attacks despite Herculean labors to do so." 400 pages later, Mr. Pollack effectively constructed a strong case for invading Iraq, despite the lack of connection to September 11th. Long story short, I was convinced that war with Iraq was in the United States' - not Bush's - best foreign policy interests. A self-proclaimed Liberal Hawk, I firmly believe in the necessity of "war as an extension of diplomacy," and thought Iraq a perfect example.

Now, however, most of Mr. Pollack's argument has largely been discounted by more recent intelligence reports and insider accounts of the war's early days. Despite Mr. Pollack's other arguments for war (lasting democratic influence in the Middle East, humanitarianism, etc.), a harsh political reality has bested him. Like Mr. Cohen, I now believe that Bush "had Saddam on his mind and in his sights from the very moment he got the news of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." The Kurds did not matter, the WMD did not matter, and the credibility of our nation's executive branch did not matter.

Call Mr. Bush's actions what you will - political stunt, lying - but his public actions and private decisions on Iraq were, in retrospect, grossly misaligned. The debate over reasons for war with Iraq should be closed, and we should turn now to the war's conclusion. Hopefully this question remains for another administration that can free itself from emotional politicking.


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