Saturday, November 12, 2005


President Bush yesterday accused Democrats in Congress of undermining the Iraq war effort by raising questions about how his administration used intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. This claim, wild on the face of it, is made doubly absurd in the wake of this week's bombings of hotels in Amman, Jordan. Where Bush would have us believe that, "These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will," events increasingly demonstrate that the Iraq conflict has entered a phase in which the tenor of American will is largely irrelevant.

Among many tragic facets of the brutal Amman attacks perhaps the most troubling is their provenance- they were planned in and executed from bases in Iraq. The Iraq conflict has thus finally afforded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi an asset he never possessed (or could have acquired) during the reign of Saddam Hussein, a platform in Iraq from which to launch attacks against targets in the broader Middle East. This despite more than two years of Coalition occupation, 220 billion dollars expended, and more than 2000 soldiers killed. If none of these efforts could prevent Zarqawi from achieving the strategic purchase he currently occupies, it is ridiculous to suggest that the griping of a few Congressman can make any difference to how the conflict evolves moving forward.

President Bush's speech is a familiar tactic for his administration, to go on the offensive in the face of criticism. Where this kind of audacity has served them well in the past, it seems ill-considered under the current circumstances. There is little likelihood that the teapot controversy being plumbed by Patrick Fitzgerald and implicating Scooter Libby will brew into anything with the dimensions of Watergate. It can never be proven legally that the administration set out purposely to deceive Congress or the public at large, and the time it would take to even approximate such a case would easily run out before the end of this lame duck presidency. It would thus seem prudent for the President to let this storm blow over rather than roiling the waters by launching an illogical partisan counter-attack.

One reason the President might have chosen this tack is because the administration is contemplating a further long-term extension of the Coalition occupation in Iraq. I give the administration enough credit for political savvy, however, to presume that they know this will not materially change public opinion about the war, as this is the one aspect of the Iraq policy where they have demonstrated clear judgment. The Bush White House knew all along that public support for the Iraq war was soft- this is why they engaged in the kind of political hijinks that have fed Scooter Libby to grand juries and special prosecutors. Whether a crime was committed is a moot point, but what cannot be denied is that the administration made every effort to circumvent a genuine open and critical debate about the Iraq invasion and its potential consequences before going to war. Why was this done? Because all polling showed that the American public was deeply ambivalent about the Iraq invasion, an ambivalency that would have been exacerbated by a clear and open enumeration of the complexities and dangers inherent in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The administration knew that a long, arduous political process would be required to build a genuine consensus, indeed that if real criticism of the policy's perils entered the political bloodstream support might collapse altogether and the moment to strike might be irredeemably lost. This is why the administration resorted to strong-arm tactics like the "Valerie Plame" outing to quickly quash dissent and preserve the fragile support for the Iraq conflict just long enough to launch the invasion itself, trusting that the quick success of the policy would preclude any close scrutiny of the tactics employed in pushing it to fruition.

The optimism of the Bush White House on the outcome of the conflict has of course been shown false. If US troop levels had receded to the 30,000 soldier occupation force anticipated in Defense Department post-invasion plans there is little doubt that Scooter Libby would never have gotten near a grand jury. Though the administration was completely misguided about the strategic trajectory of the conflict however, its own actions show it was always clear-eyed about the nature of US public opinion. It is thus difficult to imagine that the President's audacious speech yesterday was made in hope of rallying public opinion for a much further extended occupation of Iraq. American patience with the war has bottomed-out, a condition which the Bush administration helped foster by short-circuiting open debate about its dangers and complexities. President Bush can chastise Congress's scrutiny of the justification for war all he likes, but he and his officials know that it is precisely the rhetoric of WMD's and links to Al Qaeda that has left Americans confused and disenchanted with the conflict as it stands now. No amount of punditry or posturing can unring that bell.

So why, then, has the Bush White House chose to launch this attack? One can only hope that a different, more rational motive underlies this rhetoric. The strategic trajectory of the Iraq conflict has clearly moved beyond the control of the US military. At this point, even if we were to double the number of US soldiers in Iraq it is unlikely that the Coalition could dislodge Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his confederates from his base in Iraq, much less quell the other elements of the Iraqi insurgency that are home-grown. Once a constitutionally mandated government is elected in December, the utility of US forces toward the defeat of the insurgency will rapidly move toward the negative spectrum. The intrinsic conditions of Iraqi society do not favor the long-term survival of Zarqawi and his operation on Iraqi soil, if an effective Iraqi authority can emerge from December's election it will likely, over time, dislodge Zarqawi from Iraq. Though US forces will be needed to protect the nascent government as it sets new institutions in place and begins to govern, if the US military presence is not seen to quickly diminish in the wake of its taking power the new Iraqi govnernment will suffer a crippling loss of legitimacy and prestige.

The time is thus now right for a staged withdrawal of US forces to begin. This process will not be a politically pretty one- as US forces withdraw the level of violence will likely increase. Ultimately the Coalition will depart from an Iraq still in the grips of insurgency and civil war, and Zarqawi and his ilk will be able to crow triumphantly that he drove the "infidel" off of Muslim land. Their triumph will not endure, however, as in subsequent months or years, once Iraqis are forced to choose between wholly indigenous options, foreign agitators like Zarqawi will see their base of support erode beneath them.

George W. Bush and his advisors hopefully see this picture or something like it. At the very least one can hope that they see the domestic political prudence of a US withdrawal from Iraq in the face of mid-term elections. This new rhetorical offensive is thus (hopefully) laying the groundwork for that policy shift. Any politically embarrassing sound-bites coming out of Iraq in the midst of a Coalition withdrawal can now be blamed on the Democrats- "Zarqawi would never have remained as powerful as he is were it not for the partisan attacks of Congressional Democrats." As deeply cynical as such a strategy clearly is, if it has been embraced by the Bush administration it is at least a hopeful sign that they intend to move the Iraq policy in a more rational direction.


Ahistoricality said...

Nicely done.

alex said...

I would add that the 220 billion is an underestimate of the costs of the war, as the NPP freely admits. It does not include capital replenishment costs, health care costs resulting from the war, effects on oil markets from a reduction of Iraq's production, effect on interest rates from more debt and so on. John Quiggin projects these costs into the future, assuming a graduate withdrawal over Bush's second term, and comes out with a figure of about $1 trillion.

Kate Marie said...

Dear Madman,

No time to get into the entirety of this post, or to comment on what is really just a guess about Bush's "deeply cynical" strategy.

But since you're accusing politicians of being "deeply cynical," do you think you might want to throw some of that love the way of the Democrats in Congress? Or is Bush the only politician in the country who could have prompted an open and honest debate about advisability of the war in Iraq? Didn't Congress have the chance for that kind of debate when they voted to authorize war in the first place? Or are Republicans the only "deeply cynical" ones while Democrats are just poor, honest, innocent dupes?

Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

Your claim that Congress "authorized war in the first place" is a tired refrain of Bush apologists. This war is the vanity policy of the Bush White House, every aspect of its strategic and tactical execution is an expression of the will of the Executive. Suggesting that the Democrats in Congress could have stopped it is absurd. Beyond this, many Congressional voices did speak up to voice warnings even in the face of the political steamroller set in motion by the Bush regime:

"Congressional action on this resolution is not the end of our national debate on how best to disarm Iraq. Nor does it mean we have exhausted all of our peaceful options to achieve this goal.....If in the end these efforts [at diplomacy] fail, and if in the end we are at war, we will have an obligation, ultimately, to the Iraqi people with whom we are not at war. This is a war against a regime, mostly one man. So other nations in the region and all of us will need to help create an Iraq that is a place and a force for stability and openness in the region. That effort is going to be long term, costly, and not without difficulty, given Iraq's ethnic and religious divisions and history of domestic turbulence. In Afghanistan, the administration has given more lipservice than resources to the rebuilding effort. We cannot allow that to happen in Iraq, and we must be prepared to stay the course over however many years it takes to do it right.

The challenge is great: An administration which made nation building a dirty word needs to develop a comprehensive, Marshall-type plan, if it will meet the challenge. The President needs to give the American people a fairer and fuller, clearer understanding of the magnitude and long-term financial cost of that effort. The international community's support will be critical because we will not be able to rebuild Iraq singlehandedly. We will lack the credibility and the expertise and the capacity....

One of the lessons I learned from fighting in a very different war, at a different time, is we need the consent of the American people for our mission to be legitimate and sustainable. I do know what it means, as does Senator Hagel, to fight in a war where that consent is lost, where allies are in short supply, where conditions are hostile, and the mission is ill-defined. That is why I believe so strongly before one American soldier steps foot on Iraqi soil, the American people must understand completely its urgency. They need to know we put our country in the position of ultimate strength and that we have no options, short of war, to eliminate a threat we could not tolerate."

~John Kerry, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, October 9, 2002

Can you find any discussion of the dangers and complexities of the Iraq war that is this open, honest, and candid by a member of the Bush administration made prior to the invasion of Iraq? This speech of John Kerry's is only one example, many in Congress on both sides of the aisle warned of the dangers of this conflict. I challenge you to find any speech by a Bush White House spokesman prior to the invasion that consists of anything other than overheated rhetoric about "mushroom clouds" and "taking the fight to the terrorists." One speech that warns of long commitment, great expense, great loss, tortuous effort, uncertain results.

Kate Marie said...

Oh, come on, Madman. I wasn't suggesting that the Democrats in Congress could have *stopped* it. I was suggesting that they could have voted *against* it. Far be it from me, however, to claim that the votes of people like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton were "deeply cynical."

As for Kerry's speech, ummm . . . it's nice, but if I were inclined to be "deeply cynical," I might say it was his way of voting for the war while reserving the right to be against it if it became unpopular. But it's only the Bush administration that's deeply cynical and inclined toward political expedience? If you believe that, I have a magic hat I'd like to sell you.

Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

Repeating the refrain that the Dems "voted for the war" doesn't make it any less tired or more true. Bush told Congress that he was eyeball-to-eyeball with a dictator possessed of WMDs and needed a resolution authorizing *force* to show unity of purpose and compel disarmament. The suggestion that anyone who voted "yes" under those circumstances (Rep or Dem) sanctioned the current conflict is an absurd distortion.

I notice you haven't found a pre-war speech from a Bush spokesman displaying anything akin to Kerry's candor. Maybe you could pull it out of your magic hat.

Kate Marie said...

I haven't been looking for a pre-war speech from a member of the Bush administration, because, ummmmmm . . . I never made any claims one way or another about the "candor" of the Bush administration. I don't have time to try to prove points I didn't make.

So you are taking the "innocent dupes" line? The poor innocent lambs were bullied into it? They didn't know the use of "force" might mean actual war? It depends on what the definition of "force" is? Were they expecting Bush to come back to them, in the event that Saddam didn't respond to their little Congressional "threat," and ask for another resolution?

Tell me something, Madman. Would you have voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq? I sincerely doubt it, but maybe you can convince me. The way you've set it up, either Kerry and company were "steamrolled" by the Bush administration into doing something for bogus reasons, because they didn't know any better (while lots of people, presumably like you, *did*), or they cynically gave their imprimatur to a use of force that was premised on bogus reasons.

My comment was meant to suggest something I thought was fairly uncontroversial -- that, if the Bush administration has behaved in a "deeply cynical" fashion, the Democrats have done so as well. I don't generally like the "dastardly motives" method of argumentation in the first place, but if you're going to go in for that, it seems naive to impute all the bad motives to the side with which you disagree.

Kate Marie said...

By the way, the full text of Bush's speech can be found here:

Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

Just as you never made any claims about the candor of the Bush administration, I never made any claims about the cynicism or lack thereof of the Democrats. If the Democrats were cynical (which you have yet to prove) it certainly doesn't excuse any cynicism on the part of the Bush administration. For that matter, no amount of sincerity on the part of Bush and his cronies excuses the rash and incompetent manner in which they have initiated and conducted all aspects of the Iraq policy.

My query about a Bush regime speech was merely to see if you could address the more substantive concerns of my post, the fact that the Bush White House made no effort to build a durable consensus for a long, hard conflict. If you go back and read my post you will see that I didn't impute "dastardly motives" to Bush & Co. on that score, I am persuaded that they didn't build such a consensus because they didn't feel they would need it. In this respect they were not cynical, just terribly, terribly wrong where John Kerry and many others were right. My accusation of cynicism was confined to the political attacks Bush most recently launched to deflect criticism from this mistake.

As for your "innocent dupes" question, like you I don't really feel the need to defend points I didn't make or explore issues that aren't relevant to my argument. No shaking of fists or crying to Heaven can make anything any Democrat or Congressman did remove one iota of responsibility from the Bush regime for the initiation and conduct of this war. I don't pretend to know why those Democrats who voted for the authorization of force did so, but I can think of many conscientious reasons why one might. If you cannot then you are guilty of the same prejudice of which you accuse me.

Kate Marie said...


My original comment made fairly clear that I was *not* commenting on the entirety of your post, but on the fact that its argument about the motives of the Bush administration (in launching this "counter-attack" against the "Bush lied" crowd) was premised on the idea of the Bush administration's "deeply cynical" strategy. If I haven't proved the "deeply cynical" motives of the Democrats, neither have you proved the "deeply cynical" motives of the Bush administration. And that's because it's not really a thing you can prove. That's why, as I said, it's not a line of reasoning that I find particularly convincing. But I figured that since you began by trying to predict/characterize the deeply cynical motives of the Bush administration, you wouldn't balk at admitting that the Democrats might have "deeply cynical" motives as well. A trivial point, perhaps, but one you haven't yet been willing to concede.

Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

I don't see how my conceeding this trivial point or not makes any difference to the tenor of my argument, as you have yet to conceed many, many non-trivial points. You have yet to conceed that the Bush administration did not build a durable consensus for this conflict. You have yet to conceed (in fact, you openly denied before being given proof of the reverse) that Congressional delegates (Rep and Dem both) such as John Kerry provided much more in the way of informed and critical warnings about the dangers of this policy than anything coming out of the administration. You have yet to conceed that the current critics of the war might deserve a sobriquet more dignified than "the Bush lied crowd." When you are ready to conceed on these points I'll give you a laundry list of cynical things Democrats have done.

Kate Marie said...

1) My reference to the "Bush lied" crowd refers not to *any* current critics of the war, but to any who actively -- and, I might add, cynically -- promote the "Bush lied" meme. Those who promote that idea don't deserve a more dignified sobriquet, and thus I have nothing to concede on that point.

2) Did the Bush adminstration build a durable consensus on Iraq? No, by definition, they did not, because whatever consensus existed to begin with seems to have disappeared. But let me ask you this. If a good majority of people still supported the war in Iraq, would you be conceding that the Bush administration *had* built a durable consensus? If we had lost 2,000 soldiers in the Bosnia/Kosovo actions, I think American consensus for that war would have dried up just as quickly as it has for this one. If you ask me, that says just as much about the American people as it does about the consensus that was built. In any event, would you then have argued that the Clinton adminstration hadn't built a durable consensus for the war?

3) Can I get the "laundry list" if I concede all your points for the sake of argument?

Madman of Chu said...

1)Anyone who throws around rhetoric like "the Bush lied crowd" has no right to complain that someone characterizes motives of the Bush regime as "deeply cynical." If you can't imagine why a sincere person speaking in good faith might feel deceived by this administration you are guilty of the very prejudice and intransigence you impute to me.

Moreover if you go back and actually read my post you'll see that I never call any of the administration's motives necessarily cynical, I only argue that the best hopes for a rationalization of the current policy lie in the CHANCE that Bush's motives are deeply cynical in his most recent attacks. Any of the sincere motives for those attacks may be so, but they point to more of the same tragic ineptitude and waste that has characterized the policy to date.

2)Your Bosnia/Kosovo analogy is completely fallacious. Sorry, there is no way to pass this off as "bad luck" on Bush's part. The mission in Bosnia and Kosovo never posed any fraction of the dangers the Iraq mission has, and has been conducted in tandem with a much broader coalition of allies. The Clinton administration built a political foundation for those operations painstakingly and deliberately through arduous diplomatic and domestic negotiation.

You keep trying to turn this into some kind of partisan issue, but it simply is not. I was and am wholeheartedly in support of the war in Afghanistan despite the fact that it was launched by a Republican administration. If Gore had invaded Iraq in the wake of 9/11 I would be just as opposed as I am now. The invasion of Iraq was not compelled by some imperative of strategic necessity or clear tactical wisdom, it was wholly the initiative of the Bush administration. Fobbing responsibility for it off onto Congressional Democrats (or even Congress as a whole) is just sophistry. Blaming the American people for the way they feel is not a line of reasoning I give much credit to either. Macho pundits like Victor Hansen can blow hot air all they like, no people has ever liked the prospect of sending its young people off to die, including the USA, even during "good wars" like WWII. If former presidents were able to better sustain public support during other wars (and at this point it would be hard to find a president who did not), it is not because they were lucky where Bush is not. They did the hard political work that this administration refused to do, and we are all going to have to pay the consequences for Bush's negligence.

3)Send me a SASE with your heartfelt concession and I'll get you that laundry list.

Kate Marie said...

1)I *am* prejudiced. I make an attempt to overcome my prejudices. I don't pretend I don't have them.

2)Ah, but I'm not trying to pass this off as bad luck -- merely trying to get you to define consensus and how it is achieved. By polling? By a survey of pundits? One might have thought that the vote to authorize force might be taken as a sign of consensus, and that anyone who believed the Bush administration *hadn't* achieved a "durable consensus" had no business voting to authorize force. And my Bosnia/Kosovo analogy isn't fallacious just because you say so. As a matter of fact, it was more of a hypothetical than an analogy, and you haven't really answered it. Do you deny that any consensus which was achieved in the Bosnia/Kosovo actions would have dried up if -- against all expectation -- casualties had mounted? And would you then argue that the Clinton administration hadn't built a durable consensus? It's a fair question. You say, "The Clinton administration built a political foundation for those operations painstakingly and deliberately through arduous diplomatic and domestic negotiation." That arduous process would have been for naught the minute anything went seriously wrong. And the same is true of the first Gulf War (which I'm assuming you supported, since the first Bush administration had built a durable consensus based on arduous diplomatic and domestic negotiation, and this isn't about partisan politcs).

The Iraq War *was* the intitiative of the Bush administration. To claim, however, that our elected representatives in Congress (who authorized force against Iraq in 1998 as well) bear some responsibility for their vote is not to "fob it off" on them. As I argued above, if it was as clear as you claim that the Bush administration had not built a durable consensus for this war, then those who voted to authorize force were either idiots or cynical politcal opportunists. I'm at a loss to understand why either such criminal stupidity or such jaundiced political expedience should get a pass.

What does "macho" Victor Davis Hanson have to do with it, and when has he ever claimed that any people has liked the prospect of sending its young people off to die?

Could you give me an example of a President who was better able to sustain public support during other wars (excluding WW2, and any other war which was seen as a clear matter or self defense)? And could you explain how the situations are historically analogous?

Kate Marie said...

You might also want to read the resolution authorizing force in Iraq. If those sincere folks who feel honestly misled by this administration had thought it was all about (supposedly distorted) evidence of WMD, what's with all the rest of their justifications for force? Just "padding"?

Madman of Chu said...

Kate Marie,

1)I make the same efforts to overcome my prejudices as you do, and I have had better success. The post you are commenting on is a case in point- it is very, very fair to the President where your selective and distortional reading of it betrays your deep biases.

2)Rather than asking how a durable consensus is built for a war, which is a very complex question, you should rather ask how the Bush administration has squandered consensus in this one (I'm not even going to address the "authorization for force" issue, as that is so completely irrelevant to this discussion). The root of the Bush regime's current woes is simple- they focused their public case for war by emphasizing that the invasion of Iraq was in some sense a response to 9/11- overthrowing Saddam would weaken Al Qaeda by depriving them of a source of WMD's and an ally. Now that no WMD's have been found and Al Qaeda continues to get stronger as a result of the fall of Saddam Americans are confused and have lost patience, they didn't really buy in to a long, arduous process of nation-building because that was never really sold to them.

By contrast almost every other war the U.S. has fought has seen a clearer linking of initial justification and long-term execution. Whether it was containing Communism in Vietnam, liberating Kuwait in Gulf I, or stopping genocide in Bosnia, the executive laid out goals for which the existing political will of the electorate was more commensurate with the risks and necessary sacrifices of the mission. In this respect even Johnson and Nixon were better at managing public support for the war than Bush. Yes, consensus for Vietnam ultimately did collapse, but where 54% of people polled now believe the Iraq war was a mistake, a comparable percentage of the electorate didn't feel that way until 1970 about Vietnam. Public support for the war in Iraq has thus eroded about twice as fast as it did for Vietnam.

As for whether public support for Bosnia or Gulf I would have collapsed had something gone wrong, we'll never know. Certainly in both cases the presidents in charge took every step to minimize risk and deliver an outcome that was politically sustainable, can you seriously claim the same for W? Moreover both Gulf I and Bosnia were highly "disengageable," the security consequences for the U.S. were limited in the event that the mission failed. The same is not true of Iraq- the consequences for failure or even limited success would be very grave, and in this sense the failure of the Bush regime to make the mission politically sustainable is doubly reckless and irresponsible.

Kate Marie said...

Dear Madman,

1) My original comment was not, as I have repeatedly said, a distortional reading of your post, because it wasn't really meant as a reading of your post at all -- as I thought I made clear. If you didn't want to address a tangential issue, then why not just say so, instead of claiming that I'm misreading your post even while you argue with me about the tangential issue I raised?

2) Wait a minute. I thought your claim was that the Bush administration never built a durable consensus, that support for action in Iraq was always "soft." How, exactly, is the authorization of the use of force irrelevant to the issue of consensus building here? If the support was soft, if a durable consensus did not exist, the authorization for the use of force -- which might reasonably be taken to *reflect* a consensus -- should not have happened. You may not want to talk about it, but it's not irrelevant.

3) I'm confused about the process of consensus building. You say it's "complicated," but then you seem to want to explain it as a matter of public opinion polls and your reading of the Bush administration's justifications.

4) The original resolution supporting the use of force enumerates *several* justifications for the action. If our elected representatives did not believe in those justifications, why did they include them? And yes, given the consequences of failure or limited success, they need to bear *some* responsibility for the political sustainability of the war. Or do they just get to throw up their hands and say "Well, yes, I voted for the resolution, but I didn't really mean all that stuff about preventing further genocide and oppression in Iraq, U.N. resolutions, the future of the Middle East, etc.?"

5) You didn't answer my question about Victor Davis Hanson.

Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

1)Commenting on a tangential issue in a post is itself distortional, as it trivializes the larger argument being made. Moreover, you didn't comment on a tangential issue in the post, you raised a phantasmal tangent that doesn't even exist in the post. I wish I had just cut this all off at the beginning by pointing out how tangential and imaginary your objections were- you're just more clever than me, I guess.

2)Why would the authorization of force be any indication of the state of consensus for the war? It reads:


(a) AUTHORIZATION. The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

What I see here is a ratification of the case for war that Bush made all along- that Saddam posed a threat to the U.S. Bush got a resolution from Congress empowering him to (NOT ordering him to- empowering him to, on HIS initiative) use force to protect the U.S. from Saddam. In this respect Congress' action signifies one thing and one thing only about public support (to the extent that the actions of Congress may ever taken as a gauge of the public mood)- the public favored using force to make the U.S. safer. If you read the entire resolution you will see that it also authorizes the President to use diplomacy to the same end, and makes the authorization to use force contingent on his reporting to the Congress that he has determined no non-violent means will work to that end.

Bush used force, and the U.S. is now less safe than it was. I'm confused how this makes it Congress' responsibility to cultivate a consensus for the war or their fault for the collapse of popular support for it.

3)This is manifestly ridiculous. Saying that polls may be used to measure public consensus in no way precludes the assertion that the process required to build public consensus is complicated. This is like saying that if food can be judged delicious by tasting it making delicious food is as easy as putting something in your mouth.

4)Yeah, the list of "whereases" at the head of the resolution includes some of the logically screwy and misleading reasons upon which the administration built its case for war ("whereas members of al-qaida are in Iraq"- oh please!). I still don't see how this removes responsibility from the President. The authorization as a whole clearly instructs the President to exhaust all peaceful means, and the express mandate it affords the President is to DEFEND THE U.S (with a PREPONDEROUS emphasis placed on disarming Saddam of WMDs). I'm confused why you insist that a Senator could oppose the invasion of Iraq but yet could feel conscience-bound to give this authorization to the sitting President in the hope that he would use it as leverage short of actual invasion to make the U.S. safer. Do imagine that there is any Senator that has NEVER voted "yes" to a resolution which contained language with which s/he did not agree? Your fixation upon the resolution and the illusory significance you ascribe to it are rooted in a fundamental (or willful) misunderstanding of how the legislature works as an institution. At worst anti-invasion Congresspersons are guilty of imprudent compromise or bowing to political expediency (both impossible to prove, as if no Senator ever voted for legislation that contained language to which s/he objected no law would ever be passed), but you still haven't explained to me how this a)makes any of the arguments in my post wrong; b)makes Bush's responsibility for the war and its consequences any less.

5)Let me give your question about Victor Davis Hanson the answer it deserves, in two parts, a)if you can't see what V.D.H. has to do with it, that is your problem; b)where did I claim that he ever claimed that any people has liked the prospect of sending its young people off to die?

Kate Marie said...

Dear Madman,

Regarding VDH, here is what you said: "Macho pundits like Victor Hansen can blow hot air all they like, no people has ever liked the prospect of sending its young people off to die, including the USA, even during "good wars" like WWII." If the implication of that statement is *not* that Hanson's "hot air" somehow suggests that people *like* the prospect of sending their young off to die, what is the implication? As to whether it's my problem if I can't see what Hanson has to do with it, ummmmm... you brought him up. If you don't want to explain what he has to do with it, fine. I hereby invoke that corrupt posturing peacock pro-Baathist George Galloway and his hot air. If you can't see what he has to do with it, that's your problem.

Since I have never said either that it was Congress's responsibility to *cultivate* a consensus or that Congress's share of responsibility somehow *absolves* Bush of blame, I don't know what you're talking about. The way you've mischaracterized what I said makes me think that, for all your boasts about having overcome partisanship, you are perhaps reading what I have said through a partisan filter.

I'll repeat what I said: "I thought your claim was that the Bush administration never built a durable consensus, that support for action in Iraq was always "soft." How, exactly, is the authorization of the use of force irrelevant to the issue of consensus building here? If the support was soft, if a durable consensus did not exist, the authorization for the use of force -- which might reasonably be taken to *reflect* a consensus -- should not have happened." That statement is neither a suggestion that Congress is responsible for building a consensus nor that Bush is *not* responsible for it. As I said, if the support for war was soft, if a durable consensus did not exist, and if members of Congress can have been expected to understand that, there is no excuse for their "yes" vote.

Kate Marie said...

Dear Madman,

You say "... but you still haven't explained to me how this a)makes any of the arguments in my post wrong; b)makes Bush's responsibility for the war and its consequences any less."

I might attempt an explanation if I had, in fact, made any such claims.

Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

My reference to V.D.H. seems obvious, but if you really don't understand I'll explain. Upthread you said,

"If we had lost 2,000 soldiers in the Bosnia/Kosovo actions, I think American consensus for that war would have dried up just as quickly as it has for this one. If you ask me, that says just as much about the American people as it does about the consensus that was built."

V.D.H. has expressed similar sentiments in many, many public fora, including in one piece that you yourself have distributed very widely. My point in the sentence you queried about was that both you and V.D.H. are wrong- the current collapse of support for the war cannot be put down to some moral failing of either Americans in general or "this generation" of Americans more particularly. This generation has the same character and predispositions as any other, the difference has been in the quality of leadership. If you want to read some other claims about what you or V.D.H. said into the rhetorical framework of my comment, look to your own partisan filter.

Now let's address your repeated assertions:

~I thought your claim was that the Bush administration never built a durable consensus, that support for action in Iraq was always "soft."

This is my claim, and this is the truth.

~How, exactly, is the authorization of the use of force irrelevant to the issue of consensus building here?

Why should the authorization of force be relevant? Are you claiming that Congressional resolutions have some power to shape public opinion? That Congressional delegates have some privileged access to public opinion, that their vote should necessarily reflect it?

~If the support was soft, if a durable consensus did not exist, the authorization for the use of force -- which might reasonably be taken to *reflect* a consensus -- should not have happened."

Completely and demonstrably untrue. I never claimed that no consensus existed, I only observed that an enduring consensus was not built. Yes, at the time of the vote soft support for the war did exist, as polls clearly show. If the resolution itself can be used as a gauge of the support for war it clearly demonstrates its softness, as it cautions the president to exhaust all peaceful means and warns him that no action must be taken that would retard the capacity of the U.S. to fight the war against Islamic terror. The decision to launch an invasion did not rest with any of the Congressman who voted for the resolution, and the resolution itself does not specify in what way force should be used or when, so there is no reason that Congress should have been expected to make sure that a durable consensus existed before casting its vote. The President could have sat upon his authorization as long as he liked, he could have waited as long as it would have taken to build a durable consensus. Indeed, Bush never needed Congress' authorization to launch combat operations in the first place, so the authorization was only really relevant either as a negotiating tool against Saddam Hussein or a domestic political lever at home.

~As I said, if the support for war was soft, if a durable consensus did not exist, and if members of Congress can have been expected to understand that, there is no excuse for their "yes" vote.

Again totally false. Since there was no chance that the authorization was not going to pass given the partisan support enjoyed by the President and since the President was empowered to begin combat operations whether the resolution passed or not, the only consequences of a "no" vote would have been to
a)register opposition to a possible invasion; b)show Saddam Hussein a divided front in the face of negotiations over arms inspections. Some anti-war Congresspeople might have balked at a no-vote out of fear of short-term political fallout over a). But just as many might have chosen to vote yes because they could not in good conscience cast a wholly symbolic protest vote if there was even the chance that contributing to b) would make a difference. Most anti-war "yes" voters were probably acting under a confluence of both reasons, ducking political backlash even as they consoled themselves that it was in some sense their responsibility to present a united front to Saddam.

Sorry, Kate Marie, no matter how you slice it the Bush White House chose the means, method, and timing of the Iraq war- Congress had no part in it. At times you seem to be suggesting that the administration cannot be blamed for not knowing how soft support for the war was because they had Congress' resolution in hand. If that is your contention one can only wonder- were Bush & Co. innocent sheep duped by big, bad Congress? Please.

The Bush White House went to war in the time and manner of its own choosing, knowing full well that the electorate only favored war to make the country safer (not to free Iraq, rebuild a nation, etc. etc.) and even to those ends was not prepared to endure numerous casualties. Bush & Co. did not seek a more durable consensus because they did not feel they needed one- the speedy and unequivocal success of the policy would be self-vindicating. Now that the policy has foundered on the rocky perils that so many warned of, its political unsustainability is exposed and the Bush regime is bereft of credibility.

Kate Marie said...

Okay, Madman. I give. You're the king, and I'm just some schnook likes to get slapped around.

By the way, I'm flattered by your perception of my influence in the blogosphere, but I doubt that *any* VDH piece I distributed was distributed "very widely." :)

I think you've overreacted to what I said, and as I've repeated several times now, I have never once claimed that the Bush administration isn't responsible for the war, or that Congress *is.* Congressmen are responsible for their *votes.* That's why, when they run for things, people look at their voting records. It's entirely reasonable to ask, say, John Kerry, why he chose to cast a "protest vote" in the first Gulf War and not in the second. If you choose to think their vote on this issue is irrelevant, that's your prerogative, but then I'm hard pressed to imagine a vote on any foreign policy issue that would be relevant.

Madman of Chu said...

Dear Kate Marie,

Finally we've reached a durable consensus, to whit:

1)You're a shnook that likes to get slapped around (which, as long as we're quoting M.C., makes you one sick twist)

2)John Kerry is responsible for his vote

3)George W. Bush is responsible for failing to build a durable consensus for the Iraq war.