This is Part III of an informal series looking into Liberal arguments against the Iraq war, as precipitated by an interview of Robin Wright on the Hugh Hewitt show. See here for Part II.
… Wright says this:
“We didn’t do the kind of international homework to ensure the international community was with us. We could have waited longer at the United Nations to win some kind of agreement. But we were in a hurry, because we didn’t want our troops to languish there for a long time. We wanted to get in and fight a war before the hot summer set in, and we had our own election schedule to think about.”
It’s altogether unclear as to what, exactly, the Bush Administration neglected to do which would have ensured more support amongst “the international community,” and that’s intentional; as I’ve commented previously in this blog, Liberals think of diplomacy as a kind of magic pixie dust – sprinkle enough of it on a problem and the problem goes away. Ergo, since we did not have deep international support for the Iraq war, it must have been because of Bush’s insufficient application of diplomacy. Unspoken is the embedded assumption common to Liberals that, given a disagreement between the United States and some other country, it is America that is at fault (i.e., Jeane Kirkpatrick’s “Blame America First”), a telling insight into the Liberal mindset.
Unspecified by Wright are the constituent members of this “international community”, and I will be charitable in declining to speculate as to what countries she has in mind other than those of Old Europe, primarily France and Germany. At the time these two countries were not merely unconvinced at the necessity of war; they were actively opposed to it. It wasn’t so much that they disagreed with our assessment of the WMD capabilities of Iraq, about which they agreed the Saddam regime was being deceptive, or even that Iraq was in material violation of binding U.N. resolutions regarding WMDs and the requirements of transparency and cooperation they mandated. As Hans Blix of the UNMOVIC team of weapons inspectors reported to the U.N. just before the war began, Iraq was not in compliance with WMD disarmament requirements. The Bush administration claimed that every Western intelligence agency agreed that Iraq retained WMD capabilities, a claim that has never been refuted or denied by those governments. Although it’s unusual to get public confirmation of intelligence findings, we now know that declassified documents from Denmark show that their intelligence concurred our own. German intelligence told the U.S. that they believed Iraq was as little as three years away from making a nuclear bomb, amongst other dire predictions.
In fact, the U.N. inspectors did find violations in the run-up to war, and lots of them. Just to present a single example amongst many, the Al Samoud missiles represented multiple violations in and of themselves, in that the Iraqis were not allowed to develop those missiles, they were not allowed to build manufacturing facilities to produce those missiles, they were not allowed to import some of the parts they used in those missiles, and they were not allowed to manufacture those missiles. Iraq did not declare these violations as required by treaty, and when caught they denied the missiles exceeded the range allowed by treaty, and when confronted with the evidence argued that the violation was insignificant. After the U.S. insisted that Iraq destroy the missiles, Iraq refused, until it began slowly destroying them a few at a time.
As for the obstructionism of France, their hostility towards and sabotage of American interests abroad is fairly well documented (by way of example, an Italian court case revealed that the infamous fake Nigerian documents Powell presented to the U.N were planted by a French intelligence agent). However, of primary importance in any discussion of this topic is that France and Germany (and Russia, for that matter) vowed not to vote to use force in Iraq regardless of what U.N. weapons inspectors found, and let me further note that this was front-page news at the time. Let that sink in for a moment: France, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with veto power, along with Germany, our ally of fifty years from Old Europe, and Russia, still an important player in the world arena and an important voice in the U.N., each vowed to oppose the use of force in Iraq, no matter what the U.N. inspectors found there. They declared, in essence, that they could not be convinced on the basis of evidence found by U.N. inspections, and let’s not forget that their preferred course of action was – more time for more U.N. inspections.
As then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, we know what compliance looks like, and Iraq was clearly not in compliance. Weapons inspectors can only serve to verify compliance, but they are not and cannot act as international policemen, chasing down violations. Obviously the weight of evidence could never have been sufficient for these countries to support military action against Iraq.
Despite all of this, Wright, Democrats, and Liberals blame the Bush Administration for not doing its international homework. I suspect that what they really mean is that they blame the Bush Administration for not changing its foreign policy to match those of other Western European nations. When it comes to intenational diplomacy with hostile nations, these Europeans have only carrots to offer, having discarded their sticks; they condemn rogue nations with harshly worded memos while never threatening anything more scary than weak and loosely enforced economic sanctions. Besides the long history of repeated failures of the international community to make substantial progress in Iraq, we have an excellent example in Iran of what the Europeans could achieve when unencumbered by the cowboy Bush. After years of abject failure the EU has achieved nothing except an acceleration of Iran’s nuclear program. This is the model which American Liberals would have the U.S. follow.
Wright goes on to echo what Liberals often call “the rush to war,” and complains that we might have worked out some kind of agreement. Again, there’s that magic pixie dust of diplomacy providing some kind of vague “agreement” which would solve everything, or at least prevent war. It appears to matter not a whit that Iraq had been repeatedly violating the terms of the 1991 ceasefire for eleven years and had in fact violated every one of the sixteen United Nations Security Council Resolutions – and those were binding resolutions of the Security Council, not the toothless variety issued by the General Assembly. Wright says she thinks Iraq and the U.N. could have come to “some kind of agreement,” but it’s unclear if she actually believes it would have been one by which the Iraqi regime would have abided, in full, with neither the intransigence nor deception for which it was infamous – and it’s unclear whether that matters to her, bearing in mind the unbroken string of failures of past agreements with Iraq.
At this point there hardly seems any point in addressing the rest of her litany of accusations, but let’s persevere. She says the real reason we went to war when we did was to keep our soldiers out of the hot sun, and because the U.S. elections were coming up (in, ah, a year and half, which apparently seems to be just around the corner to Wright). The one point here I’ll concede is that we did not want our soldiers to languish on the borders of Iraq, because that’s true. It’s very expensive, it’s hard on the soldiers and their families, it’s burdensome to the host nations (although they’re always compensated, their citizens often have objections the presence of large numbers of foreign troops), and despite all of this it does not offer the prospect of a resolution to the problems that led to their being sent there in the first place. If compliance was only partially possible with the threat of an invasion army just outside the borders of Iraq then that was clearly not an effort which was indefinitely sustainable and was thus doomed to failure.
With war we had the possibility of a resolution to this ongoing threat that was favorable to the West. We did go to war, and Iraq is no longer a threat to the international community.
Although I do not intend for this series to be a comprehensive justification for the war in Iraq, in a cursory manner I think it does demonstrate that war was long overdue and well-deserved. Equally importantly, I think it demonstrates that some of the common memes thrown about offhand by Liberals like Wright that I’ve addressed in these blogposts are, and always have been, bunk.