Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Keeping Perspective

I generally support the president in the GWOT, but The Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill asks a reasonable question -- though perhaps with more irritation than I would -- about the WMD going to Syria: Isn't it more George Bush's fault than his critics? Sure, it was the Iraq critics who kept insisting slow down, make sure, don't be a cowboy, and it's easy in retrospect to complain that he was more right than they were. But George W. Bush is the president.

Let's use the ridiculous advantage of hindsight for a moment. If we were
sure that there were WMD, and that they were being moved to Syria (and
elsewhere, presumably), what would have been the proper course? Immediate
action. No UN, no placating Tony Blair, no polite nods to the critics to lessen their slavering. The outcry would have been enormous at the time, but we would have intercepted at least some of the shipments. And we would be safer now.

Hindsight tends to obscure practicalities. If we had intervened immediately and been wrong, that would be worse than what we now have. If we had intervened immediately and just looked wrong, by not successfully
intercepting shipments, that would also be worse than what we have now. How likely would we have been able to put resources in place quickly enough to have a reasonable chance of success? Would such an intervention create too much instability in Iraq? I grant all those complicating factors. But I don't think they would make intervention impossible.

I'm a sympathetic outsider, willing to be told that more immediate action was considered and rejected for entirely practical considerations. But I am also willing to ask if political considerations, granting the critics too much voice, prevented the administration from doing the right thing. You're the president. Mollifying your critics is not the overriding consideration. Do the right thing.

1 comment:

DRJ said...

You have a good point. My concern is that I doubt that the President was given information that the WMDs were being taken to Syria. Even if the CIA and/or military had such information, which I frankly doubt given the state of US intelligence gathering in the past 20+ years, how likely is it that the President was given information that was actionable?

In addition, some information was certainly based on foreign intelligence. Recent history suggests that such information was of inconsistent reliability. Recall Joseph Wilson and Niger, as well as much of the information supplied by French and other European intelligence services.

And even if we knew what was happening, I'm not sure the military or CIA had a workable plan to do something about it.