Since NRO Doesn’t Have A Comments SectionAugust 26, 2007
I spotted a short piece on memeorandum in which NRO’s Mona Charen asks Why did we go to war?
This morning on C-SPAN 2, I heard a nice young historian spout the conventional wisdom about President Bush and the Iraq War. This particular interpretation is now totally uncontroversial – but it is false.
Elizabeth Borgwardt of Washington University told an audience that George W. Bush had urged the war in Iraq in order to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction and only later used democracy promotion as a post-hoc justification for the conflict.There is little question that “the weapons” as President Bush typically referred to WMDs were a key concern. But it is highly misleading to say that they were the sole justification.
Here is an excerpt from President Bush’s February 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute (the war started the following month) in which he set out the case for war. He addressed WMDs first:
Charen missed the link to Bush’s speech, but I found it. Bush did indeed talk about the utopian benefits of a free Iraq (although it would have been a bit more convincing if she had linked to a speech where Bush was addressing the nation rather than the friendly confines of the AEI. I’m not sure how much play this speech got in the media). Anyway, she goes on:
It may have been impossibly idealistic and even naïve to entertain such hopes (though I don’t think so), but an ambitious freedom agenda was always a part of the justification for the Iraq War – and that’s something that everyone who argues the Bush “lied us into war” is purposely ignoring.
One problem. Spreading freedom is hardly a justification for war. One might see it as a benefit, but the principle reason we went to war was always about disarmament. What Mona’s ignoring is that if this was part of the “agenda”, then Bush certainly did lie when he said this in the speech she cited:
We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed.
How can one publicly hope for a peaceful resolution to the WMD problem and then turn around and say that an invasion to remove Saddam and free the Iraqis was the plan all along? Like I stated in my DSM thread, the “I hope the use of force will not become necessary” line was the lie. If spreading freedom is now part of the justification, then Bush really had no other intention, right?
Elizabeth Borgwardt of Washington University was right. Bush attempted to focus on freedom and removing Saddam as the justification only after it was clear that the WMD’s weren’t going to be found. Unfortunately, that alone wasn’t justification for the war in the first place. After all, it’s not as if Colin Powell went before the UN and made a case for removing Saddam because it was in the “clear interest in the spread of democratic values”.
Update: Rob over at “Say Anything” ate Mona’s post right up.