Josh Marshall is wrong on Kissenger — but he makes too good a case to be ignored:
If you read the Kissinger piece and the Times article and you understand the terms of the debate you cannot help but conclude that the Times characterization of what Kissinger said is vastly more accurate than the characterization being peddled by conservative Iraq-hawks. In the Iraq debate, the attitude toward inspections is fundamental. The administration line — emanating from the Pentagon and the Office of the Vice President — doesn’t believe in them at all. Neither tactically nor strategically. The fact that Kissinger says we should start by “propos[ing] a stringent inspection system that achieves substantial transparency of Iraqi institutions” makes him, by definition, a critic of administration policy on a fundamental point.
Here’s the relevent graf from Kissinger’s piece:
For this reason, the objective of regime change should be subordinated in American declaratory policy to the need to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from Iraq as required by the U.N. resolutions. The restoration of the inspection system existing before its expulsion by Saddam is clearly inadequate. It is necessary to propose a stringent inspection system that achieves substantial transparency of Iraqi institutions. Since the consequences of simply letting the diplomacy run into the ground are so serious, a time limit should be set. The case for military intervention will then have been made in the context of seeking a common approach.
Kissinger cleary means for the Administration to make merely a pro forma argument for stricter inspections — which Saddam will clearly not agree to. That proposal/rejection, plus the Administration making a public case for war, are clearly all that are needed to start war.
How that is seriously at odds with Administration plans, or Charles Krauthammer‘s column on Sunday, Marshall never makes clear. His case for the NYT position gets weaker when you read this earlier graf:
But the terrorist threat transcends the nation-state; it derives in large part from transnational groups that, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, could inflict catastrophic, even irretrievable, damage. That threat is compounded when these weapons are being built in direct violation of U.N. resolutions by a ruthless autocrat who sought to annex one of his neighbors and attacked another, with a demonstrated record of hostility toward America and the existing international system. The case is all the stronger because Saddam expelled U.N. inspectors installed as part of the settlement of the Persian Gulf War and has used these weapons both against his own population and against a foreign adversary.
This is why policies that deterred the Soviet Union for 50 years are unlikely to work against Iraq’s capacity to cooperate with terrorist groups.
Boom, right there, Kissinger makes the convincing case for war. Not sanctions, not tightened inspections, but war.
Kissinger has no major problems with Administration policy — he’d just like them to be more public about it (so would I), and for the White House to do a short Appeasement Dance for our EU allies’ pleasure.
Krauthammer was right. The New York Times was wrong. And so is Josh Marshall.
NOTE: Josh, no link to the originial NYT piece that so mistated Kissinger’s position? That’s not kosher. I’d provide the link, but the NYT‘s search function keeps giving me a blank page. Anyone have the link?
UPDATE: At last, here’s the link to that deceitful NYT front page story by Todd Purdum and Patrick Tyler. Read it and judge for yourself.