Hi, I am Keypusher, a lawyer and former foreign service officer. Thanks to Patterico for letting me guest-blog.
Big news from Britain: Blair has admitted, in a speech to the Labour Party conference, that intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs was wrong. http://tvnz.co.nz/view/news_world_story_skin/450363%3fformat=html This earned him a condescending pat on the back from the New York Times and a not-so-subtle hint that Bush should do likewise. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/30/opinion/30thu2.html. There will be a lot of this in the next 30-odd days, so it’s worth looking at the situation back before the war.
1. I think the administration honestly thought there were some chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, and that Iraq had some sort of nuclear program going. After all, Democrats and European leaders thought so too. http://cshink.com/on_iraq_and_wmd.htm. These weapons, assuming they existed, weren’t much of a threat to the U.S. I think everybody, including the administration, knew that too.
2. But the administration had bigger problems. The U.S. was in a long-term untenable position in the Gulf area before the war. Sanctions were entrenching Saddam. His government oversaw the distribution of food to 60% of Iraq’s people under the Oil-for- Food program. http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/459pqvob.asp?pg=1cite. Sanctions were becoming very unpopular in the UN. And they were a political and humanitarian disaster. One of the most widely disseminated stories in the Middle East was that sanctions had killed 500,000 Iraqi children. Thanks to a spectacularly inept interview by Madeleine Albright, then US ambassador to the UN, the 500,000 figure became entrenched as truth. http://www.reason.com/0203/fe.mw.the.shtml. * The U.S. had a de facto protectorate over Kurdistan and enforced no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq. These commitments were expensive, and there was no end in sight to them. Worse, they meant a permanent armed presence in Saudi Arabia.
3. The administration believed it either had to go forward or retreat (first by abandoning sanctions, eventually abandoning the no-fly zones and the Kurds). This would have been a complete humiliation. Moreover, no one should doubt the Iraqis would have gone full-speed ahead with their chemical/biological and nuclear programs if sanctions ended. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20040917/D855CLS02.html. It chose to go forward.
4. The way in which it went forward has come in for some very strong criticism, which I hope to discuss in another post. But maintaining the status quo was not an option.
5. With apologies to the Angry Clam, I think double-spacing after a period gives the page a slightly more attractive, open look and makes the text slightly easier to read. But isnít diversity of opinion the whole point of having multiple guest bloggers?
* The article cited to, by Matt Welch, is the best thing on sanctions I have ever read.