Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Grown Ups

Melvin Goodman's account of a debate with David Wurmser makes me pine for the Alan "It was all about oil" Greenspan rationale for invading Iraq. Seriously. At least extracting oil from Iraq was...plausible:

Last month, I agreed to debate one of the administration’s leading neoconservative policymakers, David Wurmser, to gain some insight on why George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld chose to go to war against Iraq instead of continuing the successful policy of containment. Wurmser’s comments were far more revealing than any information we have gained thus far from Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.

...In responding to my comments on the putative reasons for going to war (weapons of mass destruction and the links between Iraq and al Qaeda), Wurmser emphasized that there was never any discussion of WMD or terrorism as a reason for going to war.

Instead, Wurmser argued that the Bush administration believed there were significant geopolitical reasons for going to war and offered a fanciful explanation that broke totally new ground. Wurmser said that Cheney, Feith, and Bolton were convinced that U.S. containment of Saddam Hussein was failing and that the controls to keeping Saddam Hussein from expanding his regional influence were “dying.” As a result, the Iraqi leader was in position to exploit the rising anti-Americanism in the region and to “break out” from the sanctions strategy and the no-fly zones to lead a “rogue coalition of nations to expel the United States from the region” and even “to wage war against the United States.” The failure of the United Nations and multilateralism in general made a compelling case for U.S. intervention, according to Wurmser.

...Wurmser maintained that democratization was the only response to Saddam Hussein’s efforts to create a movement against the U.S. role in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.[emphasis added]

Wow. Just, wow. Saddam was going to lead a coalition of rogue Middle Eastern states in a war against the United States? And, er, which rogue nations would those be exactly? Allies like Jordan? Saudi Arabia? Kuwait? Egypt? Turkey?

Don't even say Iran because, well, because only someone like David Wurmser would say something so absurd. The only real possibility, I suppose, would be Syria, but the combination of Syria and Iraq isn't exactly a coalition - less so, an actual threat capable of expelling us from the region. The Syraqi threat! Ha!

Not to mention the fact that Saddam, you know, wasn't really moved by such grandiose and foolhardy objectives circa 2003. He was more of a survival mode, with a dash of fend-off-regional-rivals thrown in, kind of dictator (they almost always are). Also, Assad has never struck me as the kind to stretch out his neck on the block for something so outlandish.

I prefer to believe Wurmser's rambling is just another in a long line of poorly reasoned, faux justifications offered by neocon policymakers in an ongoing effort to conceal the true reasons for invading. The alternative is just so...bizarre.

One last thought: Can we permanently bury the argument that the Bush administration had to invade Iraq because of the weakening sanctions/containment regime? Think about the basic premises underlying this formulation (assuming, for the sake of argument, that without the sanctions Saddam posed some intolerable threat):

In order to address the failing sanctions/containment policies...

Proposition 1: We have to work with our European partners and the UN to bolster support for continued containment, and possibly smarten the sanctions to lessen the impact on the civilian population.

Analysis: Excessively difficult if not impossible. It'll never work. The stuff of big dreamers and fools. Don't even try it. Even talking about it strengthens the enemy.

Proposition 2: We have to: (a) invade yet another Muslim nation with a light military force; (b) depose leader and ruling regime; (c) occupy that nation indefinitely via a central authority with little indigenous legitimacy despite severe linguistic and cultural barriers, a history of deep-seated mistrust and animosity, a religious doctrine of opposition and an inheritied infrastructure in considerable disrepair; (d) usher in a revolutionary democratic transformation despite a dearth of functioning democratic institutions or history of democratic rule, severe underlying ethnic/sectarian cleavages and theocratic tendencies in the local population; (e) create an absolutist free market paragon despite utter dependence of population on government patronage, lack of underlying independent business institutions and a ravaged middle class/economy from years of sanctions; and (f) collect flowers and candies from population, remove most troops within 6 months, use nation's oil to fund operations and watch as model spreads throughout region creating a chain reaction of democracy and extinguishing terrorism worldwide.

Analysis: Cakewalk.

(h/t Spackerman)

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