March 26, 2006


Neo No More: a review of America at the Crossroads by Francis Fukuyama (PAUL BERMAN, 3/26/06, NY Times)

The neoconservatives, he suggests, are people who, having witnessed the collapse of Communism long ago, ought to look back on those gigantic events as a one-in-a-zillion lucky break, like winning the lottery. Instead, the neoconservatives, victims of their own success, came to believe that Communism's implosion reflected the deepest laws of history, which were operating in their own and America's favor — a formula for hubris. This is a shrewd observation, and might seem peculiar only because Fukuyama's own "End of History" articulated the world's most eloquent argument for detecting within the collapse of Communism the deepest laws of history. He insists in his new book that "The End of History" ought never to have led anyone to adopt such a view, but this makes me think only that Fukuyama is an utterly unreliable interpreter of his own writings.

He wonders why Bush never proposed a more convincing justification for invading Iraq — based not just on a fear of Saddam Hussein's weapons (which could have been expressed in a non-alarmist fashion), nor just on the argument for human rights and humanitarianism, which Bush did raise, after a while. A genuinely cogent argument, as Fukuyama sees it, would have drawn attention to the problems that arose from America's prewar standoff with Hussein. The American-led sanctions against Iraq were the only factor that kept him from building his weapons. The sanctions were crumbling, though. Meanwhile, they were arousing anti-American furies across the Middle East on the grounds (entirely correct, I might add) that America was helping to inflict horrible damage on the Iraqi people. American troops took up positions in the region to help contain Hussein — and the presence of those troops succeeded in infuriating Osama bin Laden. In short, the prewar standoff with Hussein was untenable morally and even politically. But there was no way to end the standoff apart from ending Hussein's dictatorship.

Now, I notice that in stressing this strategic argument, together with the humanitarian and human rights issue, and in pointing out lessons from the Balkans, Fukuyama has willy-nilly outlined some main elements of the liberal interventionist position of three years ago, at least in one of its versions. In the Iraq war, liberal interventionism was the road not taken, to be sure. Nor was liberal interventionism his own position. However, I have to say that, having read his book, I'm not entirely sure what position he did adopt, apart from wisely admonishing everyone to tread carefully. He does make plain that, having launched wars hither and yon, the United States had better ensure that, in Afghanistan and Iraq alike, stable antiterrorist governments finally emerge.

Mr. Berman and Mr. Fukuyama are certainly correc t that the President should have made the liberal case for intervention and it's curious that he didn't because it is so easily articulated and so obviously morally compelling. Imagine how much more popular and global support there'd have been for removing Saddam had he just gone to the United Nations and said something like the following:
Our common security is challenged by regional conflicts -- ethnic and religious strife that is ancient, but not inevitable. In the Middle East, there can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices. My nation will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict.

Above all, our principles and our security are challenged today by outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions. In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. This threat hides within many nations, including my own. In cells and camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction, and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale.

In one place -- in one regime -- we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms, exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront.

Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. Last year the Secretary General's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwait, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for -- more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise. In violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder. In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and to buy arms for his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading, and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations; and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.

Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

Surely rather than declare themselves irrelevant by their own inaction and opposition the member nations and the Left would have rallied to the cause of liberal intervention, no?

Saddam, Al Qaeda Did Collaborate, Documents Show (ELI LAKE, March 24, 2006, NY Sun)

A former Democratic senator and 9/11 commissioner says a recently declassified Iraqi account of a 1995 meeting between Osama bin Laden and a senior Iraqi envoy presents a "significant set of facts," and shows a more detailed collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

In an interview yesterday, the current president of the New School University, Bob Kerrey, was careful to say that new documents translated last night by ABC News did not prove Saddam Hussein played a role in any way in plotting the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Nonetheless, the former senator from Nebraska said that the new document shows that "Saddam was a significant enemy of the United States." Mr. Kerrey said he believed America's understanding of the deposed tyrant's relationship with Al Qaeda would become much deeper as more captured Iraqi documents and audiotapes are disclosed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 26, 2006 8:45 AM

Your point is well-taken, but let's also spare a moment to laugh at the idea that Presidents should make the case for war calmly, cogently and logically based upon unemotional geopolitical realities.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 26, 2006 9:15 AM

The obvious answer is no, but if Bush had been a Democrat, his speech would have been spun differently.

Posted by: erp at March 26, 2006 9:44 AM

If Bob Kerry keeps saying things like that to the New York Sun, you'll soon start hearing about those Vietnam war crimes claims against him again.

Posted by: John at March 26, 2006 11:27 AM

Touche'! Touche'!

Posted by: Genecis at March 26, 2006 1:44 PM

Vietnam war crimes alleged against Bob Kerrey? Did they start surfacing when he called Clinton a better than average liar?

Posted by: erp at March 26, 2006 3:32 PM

"...based not just on a fear of Saddam Hussein's weapons ..."

What's with these people and the word "fear"? Bush never said he or we feared Saddam. Bush said that Saddam was a danger to us and had to be taken out.

Posted by: ray at March 26, 2006 5:37 PM

The left wouldn't care (a la Kevin Drum) if we found documents (and photos) showing Saddam and Osama testing chemical weapons on Kuwaiti prisoners at Salman Pak in 2002. Or if we found evidence that they shared a hotel suite in Paris in July 2001. Including DNA, of course.

Posted by: ratbert at March 26, 2006 7:47 PM

I've read through these documents. I don't see any more "connection" between Iraq and Al Q in them than America and Communist China had during frickin' LBJ's administration.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at March 26, 2006 8:25 PM

Yes, LBJ faked a different causus belli.

Posted by: oj at March 26, 2006 8:57 PM

Drum's more or less right. These documents just confirm what we knew going in and you can't make the left care now any more than they did then. Remember that Lee Hamilton said explicitly that the 9/11 commission agreed with Dick Cheney about the extent and nature of Al Qaeda/Iraq ties: they existed but nobody knows if they were operational. The only thing we know now that we didn't know before is that Hussein knew about the meetings (but we all assumed that) and that Iraq broadcast sermons of OBL's favorite Iman at OBL's request as a show of good faith. The same goes for the mention of WMD's; they add nothing to what we already knew about Iraq's WMD programs.

What we need are documents from 97 and after. They might contain new information.

But, as Drum says, who cares? The right knows that we were correct to go to war based upon the facts that are uncontested by anyone within spitting distancee of reality. The left is never going to concede that the war was justified even if we get pictures of Saddam in his white lab coat passing weaponized anthrax to OBL under a big sign that says, "This Way To The Yellowcake."

Posted by: David Cohen at March 26, 2006 9:05 PM

OJ: Rick makes a great point. That the secularist Saddam would common cause with religious fanatic OBL against their common enemy is as unlikely as, say, the anticommunist Richard Nixon making common cause with the Chicoms against their common enemy.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 26, 2006 9:10 PM

Except that OBL and Saddam were both Sunni Caliphacists.. Nixon was many awful things, but not a Communist.

Posted by: oj at March 26, 2006 9:13 PM

OK, Saddam and OBL working together is somewhat more likely. But, really, how likely is that? We should have just run the risk. What could happen?

Posted by: David Cohen at March 26, 2006 9:15 PM

well, wouldn't three more years of sanctions have made us directly responsible for the deaths of 125,000 more Iraqi children?

Posted by: oj at March 26, 2006 9:57 PM

"Above all, our principles and our security are challenged today by outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions. In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. This threat hides within many nations, including my own. In cells and camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction, and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale...."

You find this refrain in almost every one of Bush's speeches since the beginning of the WOT; the problem is that logically it is a hge crock of faulty logic and ignorance of the facts of terrorism, Middle East, and United States foreign policy.
Can anyone explain to me how Bush has been permitted to make the logical leap from two dozen Saudis hijackers (which, didn't really happen, but for now we'll just assume it did) to punishing an entire two entire countries that had the misfortune of having their politics interfered with by foreign superpowers?

Posted by: Deniz at March 26, 2006 10:44 PM

the terrorism doesn't matter--we took advantage of it to speed the liberalization of the Middle East. It's what we do.

Posted by: oj at March 26, 2006 10:49 PM


You are the MAN.

Meanwhile, I just loved Perlstein's attempt to be droll: "I've read through these documents".

All 2 million of them?

Posted by: ratbert at March 26, 2006 11:13 PM

"didn't really happen." Ah yes, the mating call of those who are not within spitting distance... um, er, of reality.

However, assuming that 9/11 really happened, the President's logic is impeccable.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 26, 2006 11:58 PM

ratbert: Thanks.

And they're in Arabic.

Posted by: David Cohen at March 26, 2006 11:59 PM

The loon brings up a good point, though. If Bush were going to fake 9-11 as a pretext for war, why wouldn't he have faked Iraqi terrorists instead of Saudis?

Posted by: Timothy at March 27, 2006 12:18 AM

And if Bush really were an evil genius, he would have arranged for some American lefties to have "helped" Al Qaeda in their US travels. Crafty ol' FDR would have thought of that.

Posted by: ratbert at March 27, 2006 6:05 AM