James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, August 10, 2006

War and the End of National Review

Great piece by Neal Freeman at the American Spectator. (ht: Norman Singleton at LRC) Freeman was a National Review board member for 38 years, and the only vocal dissenter in NR's decision to endorse the War on Iraq. There are many portions worth excerpting, but that would probably cross a "fair use" line. But we should constantly remind ourselves of this:
IT HAS BECOME FASHIONABLE in recent months to say that the U.S. invaded Iraq "for lots of reasons." It has been said, variously, that we were seeking to establish an island of democracy in an unstable region; (more nobly) that humanitarian principle obliged us to free an oppressed people; (more crassly) that we had no choice but to protect the flow of oil; (more colorfully) that the President was driven to avenge old man Bush; (more tendentiously) that we were manipulated into advancing Israel's interests. Pick your axe and grind it. The notion that we invaded Iraq for "lots of reasons" -- like so much else in the discussion of Iraq -- misses the point. There was only one "reason" that permitted the President to take the country to war: the presence of weapons of mass destruction. The American people were and are viscerally opposed to the idea of pre-emptive war. In the absence of a threat, pre-emptive war looks to them very much like naked aggression. (In the absence of a threat, even the argument from principle would collapse. The administration's stated preference for democracy was based on the asseveration that democracies don't attack other countries.) It's important to remember that WMD was not just one of a cluster of fungible "reasons" for war. It was the only reason for war.

Another statement that has been swapped-out by the fashionable in recent months, most famously by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is this: "If I knew then what I know now, I would have opposed the war." With great respect, Senator, we know now exactly what you knew then.

Of course, I would have gone further: Even if Saddam had WMD's, so what? Does a country not have the right to defend itself? And even if we answer that in the negative, that no, he didn't have the right to have these weapons, it was pretty obvious to me that the costs of the war would far exceed the benefits, that an occupation would be a quagmire. If more Robert Novaks had spoken up before the build-up to war, we might not have had one.

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