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Friedman on Why We Went to War

Thomas Friedman on why we went to war:

[T]here were actually four reasons for this war: the real reason, the right reason, the moral reason and the stated reason.

The "real reason" for this war, which was never stated, was that after 9/11 America needed to hit someone in the Arab-Muslim world... [A] terrorism bubble had built up over there -- a bubble that posed a real threat to the open societies of the West and needed to be punctured...

The only way to puncture that bubble was for American soldiers, men and women, to go into the heart of the Arab-Muslim world, house to house, and make clear that we are ready to kill, and to die, to prevent our open society from being undermined by this terrorism bubble... [W]e hit Saddam for one simple reason: because we could, and because he deserved it and because he was right in the heart of that world...

The "right reason" for this war was the need to partner with Iraqis, post-Saddam, to build a progressive Arab regime... Helping to build a decent Iraq as a model for others -- and solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- are the necessary steps for defusing the ideas of mass destruction, which are what really threaten us.

The "moral reason" for the war was that Saddam's regime was an engine of mass destruction and genocide that had killed thousands of his own people, and neighbors, and needed to be stopped.

But because the Bush team never dared to spell out the real reason for the war, and (wrongly) felt that it could never win public or world support for the right reasons and the moral reasons, it opted for the stated reason: the notion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that posed an immediate threat to America.

Here's the question I'm left with: I want you to let me do something. You might not like my reason for wanting to do it, so I give you three other reasons I think you'll like better. As a result, you let me do what I want. Was I being dishonest with you?

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Comments

Who exactly are you talking about?

There were two debates on Iraq: the national debate that occurred before the congressional resolution authorizing war, where all the above listed reasons were discussed (and listed in the resolution itself); and the second, international debate that occurred during the effort to obtain the "first" and "second" SC resolutions. The first three reasons listed were and are meaningless to the UN, which could care less about our national security, etc. (or true human rights - especially if doing something about that would interfere with the skimmings from the "Oil for Palaces" program). The only meaningful discussion we *could* have in that forum was the legalistic discussion about the continuing non-compliance with UNSC resolutions. Hence that is what we focused on in the latter time period just before the war.

I see no dishonesty here, especially between the Persident and Congress or the citizens of the USA.

Iraq not being in compliance with UNSC resolutions was an indisputable fact - the question before that body was "what to do about it?". Much of the information cited in the debate came from the UN itself - Hans Blix's reports, etc.

The final question is: Why haven't we found the WMD where our intelligence said that it should be found? There are several possibilities for this, but there is no need to reach for conspiracy theories: Intelligence work is fallible, Saddam had ample time during the extended debate/build-up to move/hide/transfer into other hands the goods (like the flying of his airforce to Iran for "protection" during the first Gulf War - the logic of which escapes most observers); he may not have had as much as he thought he had; he was running a bluff to prop up his regime; etc.. Either way, the fact that he was not willing to come clean (since the burden of proof was on him to prove he had disarmed), was reason enough to go in.

To clarify: Reason enough to go in, in that second UNSC context - our national reasons were already satisifed as above.

Anyway, Krugman is mistating things in the final reason - the administration never stated that the threat was "immediate", that was what the whole preemption discussion was about. The threat was real, nonetheless. Using the word "immediate" is moving the goalposts in the service of bashing Bush, a well-known Krugman obsession. He also conflating the national and international debate, in an effort to support the meme that "Bush Lied".

But to re-emphasize, I see no dishonesty anywhere. I do see different contexts. To insist that *one* reason should suffice for all audiences seems constricted and strange. So, to answer your question directly; no - all the reasons are valid, if you find some more persuasive than others, then fine - others will look at it differently.

"You get what you take - take what you get." :)

Bush was such an idoit about this whole thing. If he would have just said, "Look we want out of Suadi Arabia but we can't leave with Hussein in power, so we're going to take him down. Screw the UN, screw France, we're footing the bill to protect the oil and we're sick of it.", most people would have been ok with that and he wouldn't have all these problems.

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