Excusing the neocons
Kevin Drum, writing about Iraq, takes the neocons to task:
David Rose’s Vanity Fair interview with the neocon elite is getting plenty of well-deserved attention this weekend. For one thing, it’s fun to play the “which quote is the most damning?” game. Is it Michael Ledeen (the most powerful people in the White House are “women who are in love with the president”)? Kenneth Adelman (“They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era”)? David Frum (George Bush “just did not absorb the ideas”)?
…What’s more, despite their conveniently-timed hand wringing about incompetent execution, there’s little evidence that the apologists would have done anything very different — in fact, little evidence that they cared very much about anything beyond “bringing down Saddam.”
Emphasis mine. I tend to think that if Kevin is right, he actually bolsters the validity of the neocons’ excuses. After all, bringing down Saddam wasn’t itself problematic. It was accomplished competently, and was a goal that was in keeping with US advantages (military power). Moreover, there was at least an arguable case, both from a geopolitical/legal standpoint (numerous violations of the ’90-’91 UN resolutions, failure to fully cooperate with the inspections regime, the regime’s previous, well-documented attempt to acquire WMD, its penchant for making war on its neighbors, etc.) and a moral one (Saddam’s habit of committing mass murder), for using force to eject Saddam from power.
The problem has been in the quixotic, bungled, and probably doomed from the start effort at nation building. Colin Powell is looking wiser and wiser by the minute. The US should have resisted the temptation to make Iraq safe for democracy via an extended and large scale occupation, and instead confined its role mainly to financial assistance. We should have handed over the keys to the Iraqis and begun withdrawing promptly — within, say, 90 days of Saddam’s downfall. I believe Kevin Drum himself has expressed the opinion that the presence of US forces exacerbates the situation in Iraq. He’s very likely correct.
Still, it’s a shame a credible case can be made that Iraq is worse off for Saddam Hussein’s removal from office. It needn’t have turned out this way. Perhaps if the administration had been more strongly guided by neoconservative principles, it wouldn’t have.