January 28, 2004

JONAH GOLDBERG:

The emphasis on WMDs was largely the result of lawyers at the State Dept. thinking that was the only “legal” reason we could go to war. Perle didn’t reference it directly, but remember the whole kerfuffle about Paul Wolfowitz’s interview with Sam Tanenhaus in which he divulged that the emphasis on WMD above all else was largely due to “bureaucratic” pressures from inside the US government. This, predictably, was distorted into proof that neocon ideologues were lying about the real reasons for the war. But that wasn’t what he was saying at all.

Anyway, my point is this: to the extent the post-Iraq failure to find WMDs is a disaster for the United States in terms of its credibility, its relationships with allies etc. one could argue that the fault lies in the fact that George W. Bush listened too much to Colin Powell and the State Department instead of the hawks, since it was the Wolfowitz crowd which wanted to emphasize freedom, democracy, stability and the war on terror. Now that no WMDs have been found that rhetoric seems self-serving when in fact those were co-equal priorities all along. If George Bush had talked before the war about bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq as eloquently as he did afterwards, he would be in a lot better shape politically and in the history books.

The irony is that Bush — who’s been hammered for paying too little attention to the U.N. — is, in this view, in trouble for paying too much attention to the U.N.