Bush going squishy?

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Going Wobbly?

Weekly Standard June 3


by William Kristol & Robert Kagan

IS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION going wobbly? Is the president preparing to back off the bold pledges he made to the American people four months ago in his State of the Union address? The president warned us then that the clock was ticking in Iraq. Saddam Hussein was working hard to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Bin Laden, al Qaeda, and other terrorists were eager to get their hands on such weapons. And it was only a matter of time before the ultimate horror of terrorists armed with nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons confronted us all. Bush proclaimed that he was determined to confront and eliminate this threat, and he called on Americans to gird themselves for the difficult struggle that lay ahead. And he told us time was not on our side. In the weeks and months that followed, Bush repeatedly let it be known, publicly and privately, that he was committed to removing Saddam Hussein from power, and by military force if necessary, which he presumed it would be.

Was it all hot air? On Friday, the Washington Post published a credible report by the respected journalist Tom Ricks that the administration has put off the idea of an invasion of Iraq. Indeed, a military attack on Saddam may never happen at all. It seems that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended against a military operation to remove Saddam, on the grounds that it would be difficult and would require some 200,000 troops. They have also recommended against an operation that combined airstrikes with special operations forces on the ground. In fact, they apparently have argued that the continued "containment" of Saddam--the continuation of the Clinton policy, that is--is sufficient.

There are signs that President Bush and his team may be inclined to accept this recommendation. On Thursday, in Berlin, the president said, "I have no war plans on my desk" and "we've got to use all means at our disposal to deal with Saddam Hussein." An official "familiar with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's thinking" told Ricks that "there are many ways in which [regime change] could come about, only one of which is a military campaign in Iraq."

In other words, the administration may be returning to the idea of containment plus covert operations against Saddam--attempted coups, hoped-for assassination by people close to Saddam, hoped-for spontaneous combustion of his dictatorship, hoped-for serious U.N. inspections. In short, dreamland.

This is the policy of the Clinton administration, the one Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and a host of Republicans criticized so vociferously during the 2000 campaign: Keep Saddam "in his box" and pray for a miracle. That is what Clinton did for eight years. The CIA tried to foment coups, to support plots against Saddam, and they all failed. Plotters were caught and executed. American agents were rounded up and executed. And at the end of Clinton's term, Saddam was alive and kicking.

And posing the grave peril that Bush so astutely identified in his State of the Union address. But now, apparently, the Bush administration may be seeing wisdom in Clinton's approach. In fact, the administration recently made life even easier for Saddam, winning U.N. approval for a significant easing of the sanctions against Iraq. Saddam will now grow richer, and he will have new cash to spend on his weapons programs.

Did President Bush really not understand what he was saying when he pronounced the Bush Doctrine? Did he think an invasion of Iraq would be easy? Was it really a surprise to Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld when the Joint Chiefs told them 200,000 troops would be needed to take out Saddam?

Perhaps it was. And there are other, worrying signs of non-seriousness about war in the highest reaches of the Bush administration: An unwillingness to substantially increase the defense budget. A lack of preparation of the American public for the fact that the war on terror is going to get bigger, not smaller. A lack of public (and private, so far as we can tell) diplomacy with respect to our allies. A lack of serious planning with Iraqi opposition groups. A lack of a strategy for how to avoid the trap of renewed U.N. inspections.

We could go on.

Surely the president will step in and save the day. His presidency is on the line. As is the credibility of the United States and the whole security structure--or lack thereof--of the post-9/11 world.

But time is not on the president's side. He has lost considerable momentum in the war against terror and weapons of mass destruction. More drift and indecision would be disastrous. The president returns from Europe this week. He needs to take control of his administration, and remind them, as he said in Berlin on Thursday, that "we're still at war." If we're really at war, let's be serious about doing what we have to do to win it.

--William Kristol and Robert Kagan

-- (roland@hatemail.com), May 25, 2002


Definitely worth a bump, roland. I especially would call attention to this:

[The Joint Chiefs of Staff] apparently have argued that the continued "containment" of Saddam--the continuation of the Clinton policy, that is--is sufficient. There are signs that President Bush and his team may be inclined to accept this recommendation.

It seems there is still this distressing tendency among the bleeding-heart liberals of the military to spare the lives of young American soldiers and to forego the spending of tens of billions of dollars to accomplish our policy goals, when other plausible avenues exist.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), May 27, 2002.

"It seems there is still this distressing tendency among the bleeding-heart liberals of the military to spare the lives of young American soldiers and to forego the spending of tens of billions of dollars to accomplish our policy goals, when other plausible avenues exist."

Whoo cares??!! I doan care wut my cheefs uv staf says, I'm a-goin after Soddum, and I'm a-gunna take him out!! He's a veeery evul man ya know! Buhsides, evry buddy made fun of my pops cuz he didun take him out, so I'm a-gunna finush tha job! Then me and pops will go down in histury as heros insted of wimps! Make no muhstake bout it, I'm a-gunna do it!!

-- Dumbya (yep, i ain kiddun, i'm a-gunna get um @ cuz hees evul. an i'm gunna be a hero, yep, you jus watch and see, i'll proov it to yuh, uh-huh), May 27, 2002.

oops i furgot ta turn off my tags cuz i'z dumb, heh-heh, sorry

-- Dumbya (oops i needs @ more inturnet. lurnin), May 27, 2002.

oops i did it uhgin! heh-heh

-- Dumbya (oops i needs @ more inturnet. lurnin), May 27, 2002.


Seems like there have been several new developements since Bush's inaugural address. The hotting up of the Irael/Palestine situation and the Pakistan/India situation militate against initiating new hostilities in the Middle East. Barring new evidence of Iraqi involvement in terror against the US (Israel can take care of itself), it quite possibly is not a good idea for the US to unilaterally attack Iraq now.

If this means the continued deadly oppression of Kurds and other Iraqi minorities (Shiite Muslims), so be it. If this means that everyone will continue to appease Hussein (as the world appeased Hitler in the 30s) until the sociopathic megalomaniac unleashes his mass-destruction weaponry, so be it. Won't it make us feel warm and fuzzy to have a clear-cut causus belli?

Preventative wars are always suspect. The Allies could have stopped the Nazis in the mid 30s thus avoiding WWII, but the notion of appeasement is powerful. Maybe we must wait for a nuclear strike against the US until we react. (Even then, there will be those who oppose a response).

In the meantime, let's at least continue to build our forces so that we are capable of a response after a first-strike kills millions.

-- (lars@indy.net), May 28, 2002.

Should have said "Bush's State of the Union" address.

-- (lars@indy.net), May 28, 2002.


I find that the bush starts to go squishy during foreplay, and gets real squishy upon penetration.

-- yeah (dat@feels.good), May 28, 2002.

Lars, my own thoughts are near to those you expressed. I was commenting on roland's apparent agreement with the authors of this piece that Bush reported decision to pull back from immediate and unilateral (if need be) war with Iraq was worthy of derision (I don't think "squishy" is a term of approval.)

I do have problems with a "preventive war" with Saddam. The imponderable question is the length he would go to inflict damage on the USA, while also knowing that, if his actions were discovered, it would lead to his sudden and complete destruction. For a normally sane man, this knowlege would suffice to keep him in bounds. But, how far may we trust Saddam's sanity? It seems a tragic thing to start a war and kill many thousands based on somebody's guess about the answer to such a question.

-- Little Nipper (canis@minor.net), May 28, 2002.

I have no knowledge of such squishinesses. As a priest in the Roman Catholic Curch, I have vowed celibacy. My passions are spiritual, not worldly. I am married to the Church, not to flesh.

Suffer the little children to come unto me.

-- (Roland@SJ.casuistry), May 28, 2002.


Roland strikes me as a provacateur. It's hard to imgine Unk allowing such a person to inhabit this fragile foruum.

I remember shortly after 9/11 that Anita argued that America should not go to Afghanistan because there was no proof that Taliban/Al Qaeda was involved in the 9/11 attack. In fact, she advanced the view that an Iraqi (the same person who allegedly directed the 1983 Marine barracks truck bombing in Beirut) was the mastermind behind 9/11. She also had the typical "quagmire-ist" reservations about any military response. I wonder where we would be right now if we had not attacked Al Qaeda in Afhanistan?

I am agnostic as to whether the US should do anything pro-active vis a vis Iraq. I have no personal military or intelligence expertise. As a citizen, I can only hope that our intel on Iraq's activities is adequate and that our readiness is maximum and that we will strike first if we detect nuke or bio-chem mobilizatiuon on their part.

One is reduced (again) to cliche wisdom--"only time will tell".

-- (lars@indy.net), May 28, 2002.

Letting Saddam Be by Laurie Mylroie

-- (Why can't we all just get along? @ The.Whiners), May 29, 2002.

Reluctly, this man of the Left changed his mind about Iraq

Talking Points Memo

May 28th, 2002 --

A little more than a month ago I set to work on an article about how attacking Iraq -- once a hobbyhorse of right-wing think tank intellectuals -- had moved to the center of the American foreign policy debate. Clearly, President Bush's election and 9/11 had a lot to do with the change. But neither development completely explained the shift to my satisfaction. So I launched into the project eager to skewer the various propagandists and ideologues who've used all manner of underhanded methods and cheap media ploys to hustle the country into a second war against Saddam Hussein.

But along the way I came to an unexpected and for me troubling conclusion. I decided that the hawks were right. By that I mean that containment isn't working and that what the right-wingers like to call 'regime change' really should be our national policy. And, if necessary, we should do it by overwhelming military force. I also concluded that many of the most visible hawks really are reckless, ignorant about key issues about the Middle East, and -- not that infrequently -- indifferent to the truth. They have been underhanded and they have used cheap media ploys. But at the end of the day none of that changed the fact that their argument -- at least in its broad outlines -- held up better than that of their opponents.

Briefly stated, I changed my mind.

-- (roland@hatemail.com), May 29, 2002.

lars, during the cold war the one most valuable asset consistantly missing from our arsenal that the Soviets had aplenty was a bevy of surrogates. If Putin & Bush can get Russia into NATO (even honorarily) I could see Russian columns closing not just on Bagdad but Tehran, Damascus and perhaps even Riyadh with American air paving the way. Talk about surrogates!

Really? Probably not but the Che Quevara model is not forgotten.

Floats when you think about it. American newsys muffled against over critizing their long Ruskie pals. Bush heaped with equal parts scorn & admiration. The Russians get their pipeline to feed us oil plus the Iranians, the Iraquis, the Syrians and Saudis are left too broke to further finance Islam's cosmic war against the west.

-- Carlos (riffraff@cybertime.net), May 30, 2002.

Cool scenario Carlos. Russia and the US partner to take over the world. I like it! Certainly better than that Cold War/MAD/Soviet-Communism thing.

Machiavelli lives!

-- (lars@indy.net), May 30, 2002.

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