Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our historian-in-chief-takes the short view

Presumptive commander-in-chief Newt was all for the Iraq invasion.  No surprise there. Presumably, as a member of the Defense Policy Board, he was advising the administration as a historian, just as he did so selflessly for Freddie Mac. In an op-ed published in USA Today on October 16, 2002, Newt delved deep into his knowledge-hoard and came up with the perfect analogy for the prospective preemptive strike:
The only issue is whether the risks are greater now or whether the risks will be greater later. We learned with Adolf Hitler that moving early would have been less expensive and less dangerous and would have saved millions of lives.
The rest of the piece is unexceptionable party-hack boilerplate. The case for war is made in four simple points, QED:

* First, is the proposed action truly necessary? The necessity of replacing Saddam Hussein is the unanimous view of not only the senior leadership of the United States and Great Britain. They concluded that allowing him to acquire weapons of mass destruction -- weapons he is willing to use -- would make the world dramatically more dangerous. That opinion is also held by former ambassador Richard Butler, who was the head of the United Nations inspections commission in Iraq.

* Second, is the proposed action achievable? No one seriously doubts that the United States and its coalition partners, including Britain, Australia, Kuwait, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands, are all prepared to succeed. Even Saudi Arabia and other nations have agreed to help if there is a U.N. resolution.

* Third, is it worth it? The bombing in Bali, Indonesia, should have reminded us that we are permanently at risk until those who support terrorism are defeated. The question is not, "Should we replace Saddam?" The question is, "Should we wait until Saddam gives biological, chemical and nuclear weapons to terrorists?"

* Fourth, if there is to be action, we should act early, and we should have unrestricted options. The Bush administration has gotten congressional authorization, mobilized diplomatic and military forces, worked the U.N. aggressively and prepared and communicated with our allies. Moreover, the Bush administration will not restrict the options for success and ultimately will do what is necessary to win as rapidly as possible with minimum casualties. 
Every bullet above is either a deception, a tautology or a non sequitur: a) Richard Butler opposed the invasion; b) countries that joined the U.S.'s  pitifully thin coalition would presumably believe the mission 'achievable'; c) by Newt's logic any terrorist attack would prove that Saddam was on course to give nukes to terrorists; and d) if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly -- so just do it.

But there's the rub: would it be done when 'tis done? Conspicuously absent is any inkling that anything might go wrong after Saddam is overthrown, or that planning might need to extend beyond doing "what is necessary to win as rapidly as possible."  MacBeth worried whether his regime change would trammel up the consequences. Historian Newt didn't bother to wonder.

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