Burden of Proof

Stephen Stestanovich, former embassador-at-large to the former Soviet Union, explains how Bill Clinton and George W Bush use the same kind of thinking:

Mr. Yeltsin’s “near-death experience” of 1998 carries another lesson that unfortunately hasn’t been part of the current controversy. When policymakers have imperfect information about a serious problem (which is almost always), what should they do? The answer, then as now, is to shift the burden of proof to the other guy. If we had been denied that meeting with Mr. Yeltsin, it would hardly have proved that he was dead. But we would have canceled the trip all the same. Russian uncooperativeness – not our poor intelligence – would have left us no choice.

Going to war and canceling a trip are vastly different matters, but what the Bush administration did with Saddam Hussein in the run-up to war followed the same rule: it challenged him to prove that American intelligence was wrong, so that the responsibility for war was his, not ours.

Read the whole thing.