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February 06, 2004
Rewriting history

For those wondering just exactly what the Bush re-election campaign's strategy to explain the mess in Iraq is going to be, consider this

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL PART of President Bush's National Security Strategy, unveiled in September 2002, was its mention of preemptive action against "emerging threats before they are fully formed."

The part that boggles my mind is the idea that anyone is suggesting that Hussein was some kind of "emerging" threat instead of having been a 30-year thorn in the side of international relations and the subject of threats, resolutions, sanctions, and failed assassination attempts.

This has been described by foreign policy mandarins as a diplomatic earthquake that has overthrown decades, if not centuries, of devotion to the doctrines of containment and deterrence. Iraq was widely seen as the test case of this "radical," uniquely "neoconservative" approach.

"Centuries" of containment? If there's been any country using a policy of 'containment' for centuries, I'm unaware of it. I know the British historically tried to keep enemy navies off the seas, but is that "containment" or "quarantine" or a "blockade" - none of which seem to be the same thing in the author's definition? And does it count at all if they didn't simultaneously attempt a land containment/quarantine/blockade?

Or maybe I was boggled by this quote they use from, from Wesley Clark:

Nations and alliances should move early to deal with crises while they are still ambiguous and can be dealt with more easily, for delay raises both the costs and risks. Early action is the objective to which statesmen and military leaders should resort.

In principle, I agree with this. Stop the problem before it becomes a national or international crisis, but that wasn't Iraq, okay?

Iraq was long past the crisis state. It was an international stalemate.

There is no way you can pretend that last year was "early" or that the situation with regard to Iraq was "ambiguous." The world lined up around Iraq, time and again. Supporters, neutrals, detractors, officially-neutral-but-doing-business-on-the-side, morally-superior-but-needing-oil, secretly-supportive-but-publicly-neutral, you name it, there was a faction for it.

Boggles the mind to think someone might seriously argue that the Bush Administration was just implementing Clark's idea, doesn't it? But I'm honestly thinking they might try it.

Don't get me wrong, okay? That was just an idea that occurred to me as I started to read the article. I recommend that you read it yourself. It's really interesting.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:28 PM


I would point out regarding the Clark remark, that like the vast majority of military people he wants the diplomats and politicians to get involved and solve problems before using the military.

People would be amazed how dovish the professional military is, especially those who have been in combat. Perhaps because the military prepares for the worst, they really hope that someone will prevent it.

Posted by: Bryan at February 6, 2004 07:03 PM

Well, I wouldn't be surprised that the military is 'dovish.' It makes perfect sense. They spend their lives training for the worst, and the military leaders study the odds for every potential situation they can think of.

Killing people to make a point, or attain a goal, is a very chancy proposition and it's less and less successful these days.

Posted by: Anne at February 9, 2004 11:16 AM