Vesicle Trafficker II

I have quickly read through many posts above, and clearly I am entering this debate at a late hour. So here I will try to avoid repeating too many of the arguments that were raised above and instead concentrate on two issues which I think deserve separate consideration but that you appear to want to lump together. These are: Who is to blame for 9/11? Is the Bush Doctrine a better policy for fighting terrorism than the Clinton Doctrine (for want of a better term).

Yes, that’s definitely the $64,000 question. Let’s assume for the moment that Gore would have done the same thing as Bush in Afghanistan (under the doctrine); the issue then becomes Iraq.

Despite my reply, I am not saying Bush is entirely to blame for 9/11. I was trying to be provocative and I am glad it achieved that purpose. What I am challenging, and what I do not think you can prove, is the charge imbedded in your argument that places the majority of the blame on 9/11 on Clinton.

You’re off here; If I meant to blame Clinton, I would have blamed Clinton. In the 10 years before 2001, we had three presidents, Bush, Clinton, Bush (hold the jokes, please). I’ll say that all three share blame.

Even though later you state that you think the proportion may be equal, based on many of your other comments I’m not sure you really believe this. And the reason why I am accusing you of this is because I will argue that the belief that Clinton was primarily responsible for 9/11 is a critical tenet of the Bush Doctrine, and without using this argument evidence supporting the utility or purpose of the Bush Doctrine is sorely lacking.

Why not accept that I mean what I say, rather than presume? I do think that pre-9/11 policies – which are typically, and probably unfairly, called ‘Clinton policies’ are the problem; and that GW Bush’s policies do represent a break with that tradition – which I’ll argue is a good thing, given the effect of the policies.

My belief that the majority of the blame for 9/11 falls on Bush is based on the testimony of Richard Clarke under oath, George Bush (interview with Bob Woodward for his book), and Condi Rice (many TV interviews). It is based on the growing realization that Bush downgraded terrorism as a priority after he took office. It is based on the fact that it happened on Bush’s watch. And his failure to admit responsibility for the act but instead blaming it on Clinton is part of my concern (as you put it, a “Buck Stops Here” point), because it calls into serious question Mr. Bush’s ability to look at the situation more objectively and critically evaluate what might have gone wrong. An important component of fighting the GWOT is to figure out what happened; Bush has put up roadblocks at every turn. To suggest this is a “distraction” is equivalent to saying that our leaders do not have to explain their actions to the public.

Can you point me to cites that support this broad conclusion? (Both that antiterrorism was Clinton’s highest priority and that Bush objectively downgraded it?) All I have are budget numbers that suggest that Bush was spending a lot more money on it.

This evidence is convincing to me and suggests that rather than simply carrying Clinton’s policy forward, as you argue, Bush actually relaxed the policy because perhaps it wasn’t “grand” enough (“weather” vs. “climate”, as you put it). To follow this forward, then, it can be argued that his failure to support the Clinton Doctrine could have led to what is now regarded by some as its biggest failure—9/11.

OK, your suggestion is that 9/11 was a failure of execution; mine is that it was a doctrinal failure. My evidence is relatively simple; in the face of a fairly well-executed set of responses – under the old ‘Clinton’ doctrine – terrorist attacks against US interests continued and in fact escalated from 1980 onward.

I therefore do not accept 9/11 as de facto evidence against Clinton’s approach, and I think it is nearly impossible to prove otherwise given the many uncertainties surrounding the planning and execution of the attack (e.g., how can we be sure it wasn’t scheduled to occur during Clinton’s administration?).

Well, given that 9/11 is the culmination of a ling string of attacks escalating in intensity, sophistication, and damage, I think I do have a kind of a case. I’m open, as always, to counters.

You seem to think you have a better grasp of the workings of our intelligence/law enforcement bureaucracy than I do, which is very likely true, but never-the-less it remains a distinct possibility that, yes, perhaps 9/11 could have been prevented by Bush if he brought the full resources of government to bear on the threats he was being made aware of in his briefings.

In retrospect, history is always pretty obvious. The problem, of course, is that we have to live it in prospect. If we took all the threats on the ‘threat board’ in the Summer of 2001, and devoted the full attention and resources of the government to each of them…we’d have run out of attention and resources when we got to #2.

And aside from 9/11 (and if blame is 50:50 as you argue, we should remove it from consideration for the sake of argument), what is your evidence that the Clinton Doctrine was an “obvious” failure?

See above.

Because a theory based on one data point is not a theory but a case study, and clearly basing policy—let alone a “doctrine”— on such flimsy evidence is highly dubious, to say the least.

WTC I, WTC II, USS Cole, Khobar Towers, U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam…I count 6 data points, and could probably find more if I looked.

If it is that worldwide terrorism has been escalating without repercussion during the “10-years” prior to 9/11, how do you know it wouldn’t have been worse without his policies? This is not evidence, it is conjecture. And how would you judge the recent escalation in worldwide terrorism in this regard, as a failure of the “Bush Doctrine”?

A damn intelligent question. I’ll suggest that you look at this very good paper on “wicked problems” in national security. My old professor, Horst Rittel, who came up with the notion, had these characteristics for wicked (as opposed to ‘tame’) problems:

Some specific aspects of problem wickedness include:

1. You don’t understand the problem until you have developed a solution. Indeed, there is no definitive statement of “The Problem.” The problem is ill-structured, an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints.

2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule. Since there is no definitive “The Problem”, there is also no definitive “The Solution.” The problem solving process ends when you run out of resources.

3. Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong, simply “better,” “worse,” “good enough,” or “not good enough.”

4. Every wicked problem is essentially unique and novel. There are so many factors and conditions, all embedded in a dynamic social context, that no two wicked problems are alike, and the solutions to them will always be custom designed and fitted.

5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation,” every attempt has consequences. As Rittel says, “One cannot build a freeway to see how it works.” This is the “Catch 22″ about wicked problems: you can’t learn about the problem without trying solutions, but every solution you try is expensive and has lasting unintended consequences which are likely to spawn new wicked problems.

6. Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions. There may be no solutions, or there may be a host of potential solutions that are devised, and another host that are never even thought of.

I think this pretty well defines the place we’re in in solving these problems, and so I’ll have to kinda push back on your suggestion that we can somehow model ‘what-ifs’ in this case.

Finally, I am honestly baffled by repeated assertions that a major problem with Clinton’s approach was that it treated terrorism as a crime, rather than an act of war. Everyone felt this way prior to 9/11, this is, was, and should be a legitimate concern of our leaders.

Yes, as I’ve noted before, pretty much everyone prior to 9/11 felt this way; Bush is making a claim that he felt differently (hence his desire for a different strategy, and possibly, Clarke’s removal), but that’s unproven as well. What is proven is that he acted differently after 9/11.

Making the leap to a policy of pre-emption as Bush did so rapidly and without careful thought on the implementation or repercussions is in some way worse than not doing anything, IMO. As I said before, the idea of pre-emption puts us on extremely shaky moral ground, since it places an unrealistic and unachievable burden on the prosecutors (the US government). This therefore leads to an indefensible assertion of moral superiority on the part of the prosecutors, since it is essentially a policy substantiated by faith, not proof. And I would argue that Bush’s failure to recognize this flaw in policy has in fact dealt it perhaps a fatal blow, since the failure to find WMDs in Iraq does not inspire faith in US intelligence or Bush’s sincerity.

Well, if you have problems making a moral distinction between us and the Islamist terrorists, or Saddam, this is gonna be a short discussion. I have no problems making that judgment, and think the evidence for it is obvious enough that it doesn’t merit much discussion.

As for the general idea behind the Bush Doctrine, I think there is an exceptionally strong argument to be made against the idea that the “war on terra” should be focused primarily on state-sponsored groups. In glancing through the posts above I noticed that Fareed Zakaria’s name popped up, so I presume Zakaria’s recent argument (which I have read and agree with) against this view has been presented. I know that a lot of “evidence” has been cited that could be interpreted as support for the idea that this policy has made some changes in the way some states operate WRT terrorism. But whether this has any significant impact on the GWOT is, IMO, highly unlikely. It’s still “whack a mole”, but the moles are states, not individuals or small groups. Only time will tell if this has a more global effect, but claims that it will are just fortune telling. However, it strikes me and many other observers that the long term prognosis is much worse, not better, and that the global climate for generating terrorists is as good or better than it has ever been, thanks to Bush.

I’m glad you at least acknowledge that there may be evidence that it’s working; I’ll take that as an opening. I’ll get to the ‘observer effect’ in a later post.

The big gaping hole in the Bush Doctrine, as I’ve said here before, is the seeming indifference to domestic security. Contrary to Dan’s prior comments, there is a lot that can be done to better defend ourselves against terrorism at home, to better prepare to deal with the outcome of attacks so that there severity is minimized, and we are not doing anywhere near enough in this regard.

I actually completely agree with you. Sadly, I think the Democratic notions of how to better implement domestic security are equally stupid; I owe Bruce Schnier a review of his excellent (if too-casually written) book on the subject.

So in sum I completely reject as unverifiable the idea that Clintons’ policies were a failure, and that Bush’s policies are the necessary alternative. Perhaps you, and most Americans, want a simply articulated “Doctrine” that can be summed up in one or two sentences. I am comfortable with a more comprehensive approach that fully takes into account the complexities and magnitude of the terrorist threat and is not based on faith, predictions or some biased or outdated view of world events. And I want my leaders to acknowledge these uncertainties and complexities; if they don’t, they are not fighting terrorism, they are running a political campaign.

Sadly, the Clinton approach is equally subject to ‘faith’ and lack of verifiability. I’m kind of amused that you’d suggest otherwise; no foreign policy – or in fact no policy at a scale larger than neighborhood planning – is ‘objectively verifiable’. It’s all contingent, it’s all based on faith and the best data and judgment we can gather.

I’ve criticized Bush in the past for not doing enough to build that faith, and I’ll continue to do so. But your lack of faith isn’t completely his fault.

27 thoughts on “Vesicle Trafficker II”

  1. I appreciate your effort to discuss this intelligently on the merits, and that has value for most of our readers, but there’s also a time to call an opponent on bad faith.

    Someone who uses idiotic phrases like “war on terra” is not likely to be a rational opponent – and the retreat to “you can’t prove anything, and we can’t know anything for sure” is a transparent attempt to avoid having to think about the issue.

    So in sum I completely reject as unverifiable the idea that Clintons’ policies were a failure…

    And there you have it. VT has blatantly set up a standard that is impervious to disproof, and does not even have a role for evidence. It is no different from my lack of belief in Jesus’ divinity – and just as impossible to change.

  2. Well, this is a blatant attempt to change the subject… but… honestly, I’m kind of tired of threads that attempt to extrapolate what will/would have been the eventual outcome if Clinton or Bush had been able to pursue their policies, unfettered by public opinion, for 20 years. Obviously, it’s relevant, but it’s so hard to know that it tends to turn into a shouting match, and it’s kinda been done to death.

    Here’s a suggested topic. Suppose, hypothetically, that you had been president on 9/11, and that you had 91% approval rating, meaning that for all practical purposes, you could have done anything you want. What would you have done different?

  3. First, shouldn’t we ask VT whether there is any reasonable possibility that he could be persuaded differently? And what would it take to do it? If the answer is no or if the burden of proof is impossibly high, then my suggestion would be “Move on, nothing to see here”.

    Second, aren’t some of VT’s points worth discussing? For example, I believe that Bush is to blame for 9/11 in an existential, “Buck Stops Here” kind of way. So what? If anyone has visions of GWB being hauled into the dock in irons, it ain’t gonna happen. Even Mr. Kerry would reject it–he wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to him. I still believe what I wrote here. At this point assigning blame is a frivolous activity.

    Or VT’s comment

    the idea of pre-emption puts us on extremely shaky moral ground.

    VT might like that to be true and it’s certainly discussible in the abstract but, unfortunately for VT’s argument, the war on Iraq was not a pre-emptive war. Nearly every day for the entire duration of the “no-fly zone” in northern Iraq U. S. planes were fired on by Iraqis. Each and every such attack was a completely moral and completely legal justification not just for retaliation but for a return to full hostilities. Under the circumstances it’s our forebearance that’s amazing.

    I’ve written enough.

  4. I think Josh Yelon’s question is a good one. I’ve got some follow-up. Can anyone produce any proof that there is real likelihood that we could have gotten more support from France, Germany, or Russia than we actually are? Or proof that we have more enemies because of our actions than we would if we had acted differently?

  5. Russia would have agreed to allow us to invade Iraq had we let them do the same with regard to Georgia. The US said no at the time, but looking back on it (as I noted in “Distorted Intelligence”) I would note that Putin had far more cynical motives for opposing the war than did France or Germany.

  6. On Dave’s question:
    Clearly we could have gotten more help from France than we did: we could have blown up something in France and told them we would continue if they didn’t come around.

    I agree with Dave and Josh that we can’t PROVE hypotheticals about contrafactual actions. There is a whole sub-genre of science fiction devoted to that sort of thing, but fiction is where it remains.

    However, AL is right that we can argue that the Clinton approach WASN’T working, even if we can’t say that it NEVER WOULD. However, most people consider it a good sign of sanity that you change your behaviour after a while if it doesn’t seem to be working. Bush changed America’s behaviour in the WoT. We don’t have the length of history on his approach that we do on Clinton’s. I suspect it is an improvement, but only time will tell.

  7. I would say that Russia didn’t want more Iraqi oil coming out at a $7/barrel extraction cost … but presumably, they could have been bribed (it’s the Russian way!)

    Having given the doe-eyed Putin a pass on pretty much everything they’ve done for the pass few years, though, maybe we were simply out of leverage.

  8. Dave,

    How exactly would you provide proof of the effects of policies not taken? It’s all well and good to speculate about other “possible worlds,” but I don’t think that “proof” is possible in that context.

    If you treat terrorist attacks as data points, there are several to be had during Clinton’s tenure, and another group during Bush’s tenure. To an extent, we can study different ideas of cause-and-effect in our actual history, but once you start changing events to theorize about paths not taken, it sounds like pure, unsupportable speculation to me.

  9. Dave – assuming that we had gone into Iraq, here’s what I would have done different. But before I start listing, I think the real problem in Iraq is that we don’t have the full cooperation of the Iraqis. I think that to some extent, that’s unavoidable. But I think we could have done a lot more to earn their trust and cooperation:

    – Would have waited until the Karzai government in Afghanistan was stable and fully in control of Afghanistan. I would have sent lots of troops to Afghanistan to accomplish this.

    – Would have done a Marshall-Plan style reconstruction in Afghanistan. I think that if Iraqis had seen that Afghans were much better off as a result of the American attack, they would have been more willing to cooperate with the American invasion of Iraq.

    – Would have religiously avoided rhetoric that’s hostile toward Iraqis. Would not have accused them of harboring terrorists or WMDs, even if I believed it were so. Instead, I would have described it from day one as a rescue mission to save the Iraqis from a brutal dictator.

    – Would have tried HARD to get a UN resolution. I think a skilled diplomat could have done this. Yeah, it probably would have required some arm-twisting. I think that the Iraqis would have reacted more positively if the UN had been involved.

    – During Gulf War I, we had Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and I think two or three other Arab states on board. In this war, we only had Turkey. We really needed more Arabs on board. If even 10% of the troops in Iraq were non-white-guys, it would have made a big difference.

    – While the marshall plan reconstruction was underway in Afghanistan, I would have forced American troops to take a crash course in spoken Arabic. Admittedly, this would have telegraphed my intentions to send the troops to the mideast, but what can you do.

    – Would have tripled the number of medical units in Baghdad immediately after the attacks – if necessary, by begging nations like Norway that specialize in that sort of thing.

    – Would have consciously abandoned the hunt for terrorists until such time as Iraq was stabilized. I believe that the constant searches of Iraqi homes and constant interrogations of Iraqis is hurting a lot more than it’s helping.

  10. I think somebody here has already said this, but having read Clarke’s book — the pattern that seems to repeat itself is the executive branch deferring to the agencies time and time again. When the Pentagon said “oh, no, it’ll require a million troops and like, everyone gets his own personal tank,” the NSC was inclined not to push back.

    Now, Clarke had a reputation for being a bit of a bulldog, so presumably he pushed back as hard as he thought he could. But who really knows?

    That’s one of the reasons why political capital is so important — notice how, when Bush’s approval rating sinks, all sorts of leaks start to come out in the media; the same phenomenon happened under Clinton. Perhaps Clinton was more inclined to change what he was doing when this kind of bureaucratic chickenshit showed up, but certainly 9/11 is a major, major factor.

  11. Good redirect, Josh.

    One of the central themes on the pro-war side is that there was nothing we could have done to convince the other members of the security council. Which assumes, of course, that invading Iraq required imminent action.

    If we’re playing what-if games, I think that one should be forced to take into account the facts we know now, such as the complete and utter lack of WMDs, laughable army and such.

    I say this because it seems to be implicitly assumed that the position of waiting until August is a ridiculous position to have had back in the days before the war. Clearly, it seems like it was a ridiculous position to have that Iraq was an imminent (or pre-imminent, take your pick) threat that needed to be dealt with immediately.

    So while I’d agree that there was little chance of getting the various holdouts to agree on invading Iraq in March, I think there was a darn good chance of getting them to agree on an invasion in the fall of 2003.

    Assuming that we had to invade Iraq this very minute changes the whole equation.

    But letting it run out to the fall of 2003 would have let the steam out of the whole thing. The inspections would have made it very clear that Iraq had jack and that everyone who was saying that they had stuff were just blowing smoke. The performance of Powell would have been shown for what it was.

    And then the invasion would have had to be completely justified under humanitarian grounds. And I for one would have really loved to hear the Bush administration argue that case. (and listen to the response from the “no nation building” crowd).

  12. Dan:

    Well, pretty obviously we didn’t require Russia’s approval. How would it have helped? Would they have helped us in ways they’re not helping us now if we had acted differently?


    How exactly would you provide proof of the effects of policies not taken? It’s all well and good to speculate about other “possible worlds,” but I don’t think that “proof” is possible in that context.

    The reason that I bring up the point at all is that quite a number of pols, pundits, and would-be pundits (like us) over here e.g. Dick Gephardt, John Kerry have said that they could have done better. If there is no actual evidence that that’s true, it’s just posturing. Assertion is not evidence.


    Far be it from me to defend the Bush administration (since I’m not sure I agree with the administation’s approaches), but in re Afghanistan, my understanding is that the force level we’ve got there is about as good as it was going to get there under any circumstances since a) that was the condition for the warlords’ participation and b) how were we going to move a major force into Afghanistan? In the aftermath I’m not convinced that a lot more resources thrown at the Afghans would have resulted in anything other than rich Afghan bureaucrats. There’s no there there. It’s a made-up country.

    Would have tried HARD to get a UN resolution. I think a skilled diplomat could have done this.

    Evidence? In the absence of evidence I think we have to give our diplomats who were there the benefit of the doubt.

    During Gulf War I, we had Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and I think two or three other Arab states on board. In this war, we only had Turkey.

    I’d say we didn’t even have Turkey. Did any Arab countries actually march into battle with us in the Gulf War? And would a fig leaf have resulted in material difference? And what’s the evidence?

    And, finally on the subject of security in Iraq. I believe there is absolutely no way for the U. S. to have produced a level of security in Iraq equal to what it was under Saddam Hussein without becoming Saddam Hussein. For goodness sake, there were 580 murders in New York City in 2003.

    All that having been said I was and am a skeptic on Iraq. I just don’t think we have the time the Grand Plan will take.

  13. Hal:

    The legal justification for invading Iraq is a) it was a continuance of Gulf War I due to non-compliance by Saddam and b) the UN resolution we actually got. The moral justification for invading Iraq is the atrocities Saddam had perpetrated on his own people over 30 years. The pragmatic justification is that a) we needed a strong military presence in the region and b) we needed to get our troops out of Saudi.

    I thought the Bush administration did a ghastly job of justifying its actions. Steven Den Beste does better on a bad day.

    This seems pretty obvious to me and I didn’t even agree.

  14. Dave:

    How would Russian support have helped? Beats me, but probably not. You just asked if there were any realistic way to get more support from than we already are ;)

  15. Even Mr. Kerry would reject it–he wouldn’t want the same thing to happen to him. I still believe what I wrote here. At this point assigning blame is a frivolous activity.

    Not as part of an election strategy, it isn’t. Of course one can assign only a limited amount of blame for something that was only one, rather unlikely, possibility before the event, but what you can do is build a case that, no matter who is to blame, the opponent has been deliberately deceptive. Once you’ve done that you can cast doubt on all of the motives behind subsequent actions and essentially argue that the opponent isn’t even on the public policy problem, but on some personal agenda. Check and mate.

    The proper approach is to provide evidence that Bush had made policy speeches prior to 9/11 (such as the one delivered at AEI) that laid out the principles of the overall terrorism strategy that he later adopted after 9/11. This puts the lie to the notion that what came after 9/11 was an opportunistic shift to legitimate the invasion of Iraq, which in turn begins to suggest that it wasn’t Bush who was deceptive after all. And doing that places the focus on the policy itself, which is what Clarke says he wants. You can then trot out all the evidence we have that the “hard power” policy is working, and is even making “soft power” more effective. Poll data suggest attitudes toward the Iraq future are softening among the peoples of the region, that Arab leaders chose not to take a belligerent stand on the Yassin assassination, that the Qadaffi and Assad offspring have been conciliatory, etc., etc.. It is actually a very powerful case, and the unfortunate thing for the Democrats (dare I say Copperheads) is that refuting it demonstrates a certain lack of faith in the nation, and in our ability to do what we think needs doing. Not a good position to be in if you’re running for President of the New Knighted States.

    In essence you don’t even bother to refute Clarke, because he’s not really saying anything all that important. (Well, he may actually be a really good cop, I don’t know. But even he admits that’s not why he’s so animated.) You just put your own message out there like a tidal wave that washes all his little scribblings off the beach.

    Golly, did I say that out loud?

  16. What a bunch of Dilberts. OBL and Al Qaeda are responsible for 9-11. The evidence points that way and they have claimed ‘credit’ for the action. So anyone trying to blame any American is a morooner. ‘Could 9-11 have been prevented and if so, who dropped the ball’ is a valid question. My personal opinion is that under the laws in place at the time the answer is ‘no’. It was not illegal to carry box cutters, or even pocket knives on an airplane in Sept of 2001. And so far as having the evidence to actually pick up these guys on the way to the airport, not before the Patriot Act. The logic is that the Terrorists found a system flaw that they took advantage of, not only was there no hard information to allow this attack to be stopped, but it might have been illegal to stop it. Maybe if they had been carring pistols, assault rifles, hand grenades or crack pipes, but BOX Cutters!!?

  17. The Demonrats are blowing an excellent chance to take back the white house. The USA has a pretty strong Sports sub-culture. It is an axiom that while defense is important, you have to have an offense to win. The best defense can do is a tie. At some point in ANY sport you have to score to win. Americans learn this with their mothers milk, which is why the Battle of Iraq has enjoyed 60 to 70% support for over a year now. Other polls bounce up and down depending on who stepped on their dick last, but the numbers supporting military action in Iraq have been rock solid. So the public understands and accepts the need for offensive action. What the Donks have failed to do is act as the ‘Loyal Opposition’ Bushe’s core of conservatives are not very happy with him. They will stick with him, like most Americanms will, because the Demonrats haven’t presented any alternative besides surrender. When Condi is finished blowing Clark out of the Water, the Donks need to bind up the toes they have shot off and get to work on a plan to beat the terrs that is agressive and looks to be better then what President Bush has to offer. If Kerry can get that done, he will look ‘presidential’ enough to make this a contest again. Of course if Condi does a bang up job and Kerry’s favorable rating falls below the late Governor Gray Davis’s numbers, then this election is over even, if it’s not finished.
    Feen el haweya

  18. Josh,

    Would have waited until the Karzai government in Afghanistan was stable and fully in control of Afghanistan. I would have sent lots of troops to Afghanistan to accomplish this.

    Would have done a Marshall-Plan style reconstruction in Afghanistan. I think that if Iraqis had seen that Afghans were much better off as a result of the American attack, they would have been more willing to cooperate with the American invasion of Iraq.

    You must be joking. No matter how many troops got sent to Afghanistan, Uday and Qusay would have died from old age before all this came to pass, let alone Sadaam.

  19. Ableiter, I would like to see some offense from Kerry, both in tone, and in explanation of how to fix Iraq. However, don’t hold your breath waiting for Condi to blow Clarke out of any water. All the evidence suggests that his take on the pre-9/11 WH is correct: state-sponsored terror, missile defense, Iraq. Al Qaeda? Not in the top tier. (Although why again was Ashcroft off commerical flights?)

    I barely understand the psychology of the Administration, and why it precludes their admitting error even in hindsight.

  20. A.L.;

    We are clearly at an impasse regarding our views on who is to blame for 9/11 but more importantly whether we support the Bush Doctrine in principle and in practice. However, it is also clear that we agree on several key issues.

    One major source of disagreement is how to place the events of 9/11 in the context of past (Bush I, Clinton, Bush II up to 2001) policy and terrorist events. I am not as convinced as you are that this was a total failure of the past policy or a culmination of a series of “escalating” attacks, because I have serious doubts as to the implementation of this policy under Bush II. My skepticism is in no small part derived from the fact that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz & Rice apparently came into office seeking to replace this approach with a more aggressive one. Some version of Bush Doctrine was laid out even before 9/11, but such a radical change in foreign policy would have been difficult without what could be thought of as an irrefutable example of the failure of the old policy. 9/11 achieved this. I’m not arguing any conspiracy theory about prior knowledge of the hijackings or anything like that, what I am saying is that Bush took advantage of 9/11 to force a radical shift in US foreign policy without full and careful consideration.

    Josh Marshall makes a similar argument today.

    Furthermore, if Bush had stopped at Afghanistan, I don’t think I would be able to make this argument. But I have seen no evidence to date that has convinced me that the invasion of Iraq was a necessary or even logical application of what I understand the principles of the Bush Doctrine to be. Factor in the dishonest way the war was presented to the world and that it has sapped resources that should have been directed at domestic security (which you and I seem to be in agreement on and which Andrew Lazarus covers in his guest blog post) and you might be able to understand where my opposition to this is coming from.

    So to me the invasion of Iraq undermines the Bush Doctrine in practice. Since principles are only abstractions until they are put into practice, my view is that if the invasion of Iraq conforms to the Bush Doctrine, I am against it and I don’t think it will work. If a more focused “Bush Doctrine” were to be developed, I might perhaps support it, pending assessment of its implementation. But it would have to be narrowly defined and carefully applied. There is one thing I agree with Bush on, and that is that War should be a last resort, which he repeated many times leading up to invading Iraq. However, “pre-emptive war” and “war of last resort” are contradictory strategies unless both are taken seriously.

    As I’ve argued before here, the strategy of pre-emption places an enormous (and perhaps unattainable, in the current political climate) burden on our leaders to be viewed as truthful and in possession of good judgment. It follows from this that unless we trust our leaders this policy will suffer due to lack of support. And on this count my opinion couldn’t really be clearer…the Bush administration cannot be trusted and therefore the Bush Doctrine will fail (in his hands) as a result.

    I think it is fair to ask (as someone above did) what it would take to change my opinion on this. In some ways this is an impossible question to answer, but I’ll try. While it seems that strengthening the case that Iraq is central to the Bush Doctrine might soften this aspect of my opposition, changing other aspects would require changing history. Take this for what you will; however, it certainly does not mean I am arguing in bad faith, as the impatient Mr. Katzman has accused me of, but rather that I am interested in presenting my perpective, as is he.

    One last thing. Since you also seem to agree that the recent escalation in worldwide terrorism is potentially troubling evidence against the Bush Doctrine, I am surprised that you are not keeping a more open mind about whether it will succeed until a clearer picture emerges.

  21. I guess I am being thick headed here, but Bush laid out his doctrine pretty clearly, if you are a state sponsor of terror we believe you are enemy as well and we will treat you as such. I think it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Saddam consorted with and supported terrorists. Add in all the other factors, non compliance with cease fire (cause right there), non compliance with resolutions, and being a huge WMD all by his lonesome he deserved the thrashing that he got. It was the right war at the right time. We get to kick a little Arab ass, and prove that when called upon Americans do stick around longer than the average sitcom. Strategically it allows us to start putting pressure on Saudi Arabia – who is also a huge supporter of terrorism – w/o destroying the workd economy. There are some ancillary benefits – Libya caved, Syria is making gurgling noises, and the UN is being shown to be the grotesque joke that it is. Americans have also seen that France is not our ally, Germany is unreliable. The whose fault was it debate is a supreme joke because it was nobodies fault and everybodies fault. Americans ignored terrorism as a middle eastern problem, a jewish problem as it were. Certainly we were targeted but it was the cost of doing business. Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2 all attacked it that way. Sure Clark had his super secret plan to destroy Al Qaeda, and Bush dropped the ball. If you want to believe that go ahead. But to stop 9/11 using intelligence and law enforcement we had to be very lucky. And who knows, maybe we stop 9/11 and continue are Clinton approach and something more devastating happens. We were served a wake up call in 9/11, one that was better than a million speeches and talk show chats with experts. There is something seriously wrong with Islamic culture. Just like there was something seriously wrong with German culture in WW2 that allowed them to round up all the Jews and try to kill them all. We had to invade and destroy germany and occupy germany for 60 years to eradicate that virus. Iraq was the opening salvo in the new war waged on our terms and in places we choose. And we must succeed in saving Islamic culture from itself or eventually Arab Islamic culture will not exist as we will have wiped it off the face of the planet. That is what is at stake. Iraq was perfect, low hanging fruit. The rest of the debate is just window dressing.

  22. Kevin;

    As I stated above, if Iraq conforms to what you interpret as the “Bush Doctrine” then I am against it. It sets the bar for what constitutes a “breach” far too low.

  23. A.L.

    Have I finally put a cork in your defense of the Bush Doctrine?

    Perhaps you are troubled by the last comment I made in my reply?

  24. A.L.

    It’s too bad you didn’t refer me to this earlier, it could have saved us both a lot of time.

    That post was from March of last year, just before the invasion. If you’re saying your position has not substantially changed since then perhaps you are more entrenched in your thinking than you let on to be.

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