For instance, and this is a hat tip to Josh, an article at LewRocwell.com calls the neocons theory “childish.” Of course, this is just an insult when one can’t interat with the facts, at least the way the opponent sees them. It only takes three paragraphs for the seething hatred of Bush to emerge. He writes that either the Bush administration knew there were no weapons of mass destruction, or were dumb enough to believe it. This is what we philosophers call a false dichotomy: giving an either/or option when a third option may exist. In this case, the third option does exist: everyone, and I mean everyone, took it for granted that Hussein had WMDs. Remember, he gassed the Kurds. So one wonders who is truly stupid. Hindsight doesn’t make one smarter, but overusing it makes one stupid. ~Michael, Law on Blog
Hat tip Josh at Musings of a Reformed Catholic.
The article to which Michael was referring was from Charley Reese (not that one could have linked to it from Michael’s post). Frankly, I thought Mr. Reese was being rather diplomatic in calling the neocons’ theory childish–this allows that the neocons are simply naive and uninformed, and not nearly so malevolent and fanatical as they might well be. If Mr. Reese occasionally writes dyspeptically, I can hardly blame him, especially when I sometimes fall into the same habit. Mr. Reese is, after all, a patriot and constitutionalist who sees his country being abused and manipulated by a truly mediocre and incompetent administration to engage in a useless and unnecessary (and, yes, unconstitutional) war. Even if the theory were not “childish,” the entire enterprise would have been a colossal waste of time, because even if the “childish” theory succeeds America will likely be worse off. If that does not raise someone’s hackles at least a little, I imagine he hasn’t been paying close enough attention.
We are familiar with the “childish” theory: a successful democracy in Iraq will cause similar developments to blossom forth across the “Middle East” like a thousand flowers. The assumption of the theory was that it would be very simple and straightforward, because we had done it before in Germany and Japan. Here historical ignorance and neocon fatuity were strongly represented, since they should have known that the two “precedents” they were citing were in no way comparable or apt. There is a sense in which the theory was not “childish,” as the word childish suggests either innocence or mischief, and this theory was far too dangerous to be described so gently. The theory was very simply ignorant and based on a raft of faulty assumptions, not least of which was that any invading force can remake the politics of a country on a model that has no precedent in the history of that country.
Did Mr. Reese condemn Bush because he posed a false dichotomy? The opposition of “Bush knew” there were no weapons or “Bush was stupid enough to believe” there were weapons might seem to oversimplify things a bit, but I think Mr. Reese hit the mark. It is true that there are other alternatives than those Mr. Reese put forward, but given everything we know are the options he posed not more likely than any others? What we know is that Mr. Bush believed the intelligence reports he was given, because he said as much, and we also know that the reports most supportive of a pro-war position were sent directly to him by the neocon OSP (Office of Special Plans), because this operation has been verified by multiple independent reports. The existence of an operation such as the OSP suggests political tampering in the process of bringing intelligence to the President’s attention, which might exonerate Bush from the “Bush knew” charge but does not exonerate him from the charge of gullibility. The pitiful excuses for justifying arguments Mr. Bush made (“he kicked out weapons inspectors,” “he gassed his own people,” “dictators are bad!”) lend support to the impression of either his deceit or his gullibility–it strains credulity to believe that even a very remotely educated man such as Mr. Bush would be convinced by the “evidence” he continually presented unless he was someone lacking in integrity or judgement. In short, he cannot escape personal culpability for a profoundly wrong decision–that is the point. The only question is whether he was a willingly led fool or a treacherous liar. Neither option inspires confidence.
If Mr. Bush simply believed what he was told, spotty as the evidence was (and we know how spotty and pathetic it was from Mr. Powell’s UN presentation), we can certainly “charge” him with criminal incompetence and dereliction of duty. No rational person not already committed to war could have concluded from Mr. Powell’s presentation that there was anything there worth fighting over–thus we are inclined to conclude that the war was a foregone conclusion, the WMD issue truly irrelevant except for propaganda purposes and that the President knew there were no weapons, or rather didn’t care even if he believed he knew one way or the other. The weapons were a useful screen for the purpose of regime change, but Bush had already demonstrated early in his presidency, long before 9/11, that he would be obsessed with Hussein, and so was perfectly willing, I suspect, to use any piece of shoddy evidence that might further his cause.
In opposition, there was the vehement and, as it turns out, completely correct witness of Scott Ritter who had been convinced that almost all weapons and weapons development had been eliminated by 1998. As it turns out, he was too conservative: the entirety of the weapons programs was wiped out by sanctions and inspections. So, not “everyone” was convinced that Hussein had these weapons, even if “everyone” mocked and ridiculed the few who were right for years. Only those with a political incentive to continue believing that the weapons programs existed upheld the increasingly unsupported claim that these programs persisted, and the public, fed with such “facts,” accepted it as uncontroversial that the weapons existed in spite of a complete lack of positive evidence for their existence. “He gassed the Kurds,” Michael intones, as if that proved anything about 2002. It is a very, very long time from Halabja in 1988 to 2002 when these arguments were being made, and there had been a full-scale embargo and inspections regime there for eleven and six years respectively. The neocons and Bush based most of their case on the argument from silence (“we don’t know that there aren’t any weapons, so there probably are!”), one of the worst errors one can make.
Mr. Reese was entirely right to mock their democratisation theory, because it is the sort of wishful thinking and naivete that one would not expect from putatively educated professionals working in high office. He is right to suspect deceit or gullibility in Mr. Bush, as Mr. Bush has left us with little reason to believe otherwise.