February 19, 2003


Confusion and Power: Victory Watch: A time for bold words and bolder deeds (Angelo M. Codevilla, February 17, 2003, Claremont.org)
By mid-winter 2003, President Bush and his team had spoken so long and so vehemently, and had moved so many troops, as to well-nigh guarantee that spring would bring either military success against Iraq, or the administration's discredit. Moreover, the Bush team's internal confusion and delay had so eroded the American people's precious post-September 11 resolve, as well as foreigners' support for America, that the president and his secretary of state had to scramble to build support for war. Even after the president's State of the Union address, and Secretary Powell's dramatic February 5 appeal to the United Nations, the Bush team remained of two minds about whether to change Iraq's regime or merely "disarm" it. The president had not resolved disagreements over whether anti-American terrorism is the work of renegade individuals, or of regimes that use them as cut-outs. Nor had he explained what part military action against Iraq would play in the "war on terrorism." Was it a diversion from the "war," as some in the administration charged, or was it, as others maintained, the war's proper centerpiece?

At the outset of the "war on terror," the Pentagon argued that the path to victory lay in changing hostile Arab regimes. President Bush, however, sided with Colin Powell's State Department, the CIA, as well as the earlier Bush Administration's "best and brightest," and rejected the connection between regimes and terrorism (except for friendless, hapless Afghanistan). He chose to work with Saudis and other "friendly" Arab regimes against "shadowy networks," and to track down killers "one at a time."

By summer 2002, Bush somehow decided that Saddam's regime had to be toppled. Whatever his reasoning, he did not break with his earlier decision's premises and with the advisers who personified them. He spoke not of "regime change" but of "disarming" Saddam. He claimed that he had not decided whether to attack, and that he thought it necessary, or at any rate useful, to obtain the endorsement of the U.N. This proved too clever by half. Whereas in the summer of 2002 polls had been running heavily in favor of overthrowing Saddam, by January 27, 2003, opposition to attacking Iraq, and to President Bush, had risen sharply.

This is sort of the archetypal column for all the worry warts who think we've lost already. Personally, I have to question anyone who thinks that George W. Bush didn't decide, even before he became president, to change the regime in Iraq. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2003 8:11 AM
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