Bill Keller, immediate former executive editor of the New York Times, issued a well-publicized apology for supporting the invasion of Iraq. Other ‘liberal hawks’ like Tom Friedman and Andrew Sullivan, wrote theirs years ago, but Mr. Keller held back from openly political issues while Editor. My response: (click highlights)
“First of all, the key question with Iraq was one of goal and strategy. Organization and preparation – or not – flow from that. On its face, the strategy to bring democracy to another country by invasion, with no one in said country organized and prepared to be handed state power, is preposterous and denies everything we learned from Vietnam. The cavalier attitudes of the Pentagon chiefs, the absence of non-military plans, the intelligence questions – everything – flowed naturally from this bankrupt strategic vision.
Mr. Keller et al based their support for the war on Saddam’s obvious brutality, someone’s personal relations with the Kurds, the MWD, what they thought were legitimate moral and humane concerns. But if they deeply considered the possibility of sectarian violence, if they truly thought the entire war preparation was shallow, haphazard and ignorant of the society, they should have opposed the war on those grounds alone. Then worked backwards from there to see the inevitability of their lethal lack of preparation from everything Bush et al were propagandizing at the time. That would have been the moral thing to do.
Instead, individuals in the Club talked in terms of supporting the war 55-45 or what have you, as if that conscious-massaging spread would mean anything to Iraqis caught in the downpour of American weapons. Intellectualism can’t take the place of moral clarity.
Bush tried to do the same thing by separating the bad intelligence from his disastrous political leadership and blame everything on the CIA. He got away with it in one of the most incredible displays of cowardice by any president living or dead.
On the intelligence. Let’s get real. Why did no other country except Britain believe the intelligence was hard enough to go to war. Bush and Powell insisted all UN members had seen the same intelligence. But only two of the major powers went to war. Why? Is it so hard to seek out German and Russian intelligence and ask them what they saw that we didn’t? The UN and intelligenceconsensus’ was, in any case, that Saddam ‘had not accounted’ for all his MWD. But that didn’t mean he still had any, much less capable, MWD systems. Maybe that’s why France, Germany, Russia, China, etc., said ‘no thanks’ when pressed by Bush.
Intervention and non-intervention are sticky questions these days. Obama got everyone talking about the worth of counter-insurgency vs. counter-terrorism in Afghanistan, but as soon as MR. COIN, General Petraeus, took over, he implemented McCrystal’s counter-terrorism more fiercely that McCrystal had! COIN has been left to die a natural death. The debate was really whether to stay or not, but it got clouded by the semantic clouds both politicians and military people use. Obama didn’t want to go up against Petraeus at the time, although he cleverly deep-sixed him at the CIA first chance he got.”