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Liberal Hawk Reflections
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This is an extremely interesting roundtable of liberals who supported the invasion of Iraq, including Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, Christopher Hitchens, Fred Kaplan, George Packer, Kenneth M. Pollack, and Fareed Zakaria, and moderated by Jacob Weisberg.

It's an ongoing dialogue, and it's just getting started, but there's already plenty of good stuff here.

Weisberg starts off with the question:

With the benefit of hindsight, do you still believe that the United States should have invaded Iraq in March 2003?

He begins by admitting his support for the war prior to the invasion, on these basic grounds:

The first was humanitarian: Saddam was (is) a genocidal butcher on an epic scale, and I wanted to see Iraq freed from his grip. The second was Saddam's seemingly incorrigible pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons.

and then says:

To me, the liberation of 25 million Iraqis remains sufficient justification, which is why I don't think the failure to find weapons of mass destruction by itself invalidates the case for war (though it certainly weakens it).

Though he says his mind is still not made up. He then asks for Kenneth Pollack and Tom Friedman's thoughts.

Pollack worked for Clinton and wrote "The Threatening Storm". He begins by admitting:

For me, there is no escaping the fact that the prewar intelligence estimates regarding Iraq's WMD programs—and particularly its nuclear program—were wrong. Iraq was not 4-5 years away from having a nuclear weapon, as I and the rest of the Clinton administration had been led to believe.

For me, this uncertainty and Hussein's unwillingness to cooperate in the face of 17 U.N. resolutions compelling him to do so are validation enough.

But Pollack reiterates the humanitarian justification as well:

Even before the revelations of postwar Iraq, only the most obtuse failed to recognize that Saddam's regime was among the most odious of the last 50 years. As someone who supported previous U.S. humanitarian interventions in the Balkans and elsewhere—and who wished we had taken action in Rwanda—the argument was an important aspect of my own conviction. I felt guilty all throughout the 1990s that we were not doing more for the Iraqi people (especially after we betrayed them in 1991).

Yes. The Balkan campaign was not a case of us being attacked first. That doesn't mean it was "preemption"...that means it was the humane thing to do.

Pollack's basic approach is to look at all the available options, and he concludes that they were all bad. Leave a genocidal, torturous dictator in power indefinitely, still consuming significant military resources to contain him, letting him flaunt multiple U.N. resolutions and continue to exploit the oil-for-food program. Or invade to depose him, at the risk to Iraqi and U.S. military lives, at great expense, with the possible use of WMD in war, but bringing about the liberation of Iraq and giving it a chance to become a stable, functioning democracy.

And Pollack fully considered the covert assassination option:

The covert-action-based regime-change policies that I and others in the U.S. government had pushed for as an alternative never had a high likelihood of success, either—they were just slightly more likely to produce a coup and much less likely to create a catastrophic "Bay of Goats," as Gen. Anthony Zinni once put it.

Well, yeah, there's the likelihood of success, but there's also the moral question of covertly shooting leaders in the back of the head and creating a power vacuum. This honestly seemed like the very worst option to me. Much of the world didn't seem to like to see us kicking in the front would they have reacted to us slitting Saddam's throat in the middle of the night?

Friedman then restates much of the content from his editorial columns leading up to the war. He never bought nor cared about the WMD question.

Therefore, the right reason for this war, as I argued before it started, was to oust Saddam's regime and partner with the Iraqi people to try to implement the Arab Human Development report's prescriptions in the heart of the Arab world. That report said the Arab world is falling off the globe because of a lack of freedom, women's empowerment, and modern education. The right reason for this war was to partner with Arab moderates in a long-term strategy of dehumiliation and redignification.

The real reason for this war—which was never stated—was to burst what I would call the "terrorism bubble," which had built up during the 1990s.

And finally, George Packer comes to the same conclusions as the rest...that the war, in retrospect, was justified:

I can't wish the fall of Saddam's regime undone. Before going to Iraq I knew abstractly that it was one of the worst in modern history—and there's been plenty of stiff competition. After five weeks there, my appreciation of its terribleness is more concrete and emotional. I know that's hardly the best or only basis for foreign policy decisions, but in this case it's decisive for me: The slaughter and misery of Iraqis (and their neighbors) justified the war; it would have justified it going back to 1991, or 1988, and I never understood why there's a statute of limitations on genocide.

Exactly. There isn't.

It always amazes me those that can't find justification for this war on humanitarian grounds alone. Saying that this wasn't Bush's primary argument for the war isn't an argument.

Do you only believe that something's morally justified if someone sells it to you the right way?

Couple that with the uncertainty about Iraq's WMD programs (it's fairly obvious now that no one really knew their real capabilities...perhaps not even Saddam himself) and their unwillingness to cooperate fully with inspections, and the case for military action is more than completely justified.

In any case, this is an interesting discussion, with some very articulate contributors, and I'll probably be commenting on it throughout it's duration.

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