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By Ed Driscoll · November 1, 2004 01:57 PM · The Making of the President · War And Anti-War

Tim Cavanaugh of Reason looks at the twilight of the liberal hawks:

Thus, in late 2002 and early 2003, we found such luminaries as Christopher Hitchens*, Paul Berman, Thomas Friedman, Fred Kaplan, Kenneth Pollack, Fareed Zakaria, Jeff Jarvis, Andrew Sullivan, Michael Ignatieff, and many others arguing for the expenditure of American lives and treasure in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

These days, none of those luminaries can summon a kind word for the president who acted in accord with their own arguments....This is a neat arrangement of responsibility by the liberal hawks: All the blame falls on the president, none on themselves. Bush's former supporters channel what is now the overwhelming conventional wisdom that the administration (in the person of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld) failed to provide a large enough force to run the country adequately. Leave aside the question about just how large a force would be adequate, given that even under the current deployment the armed services are strained to meet their commitments and relying on callups of the Individual Ready Reserve to fill manpower gaps. Ignore for a moment how 300,000, or 500,000, or a million, non-Arabic-speaking troops would prevent, for example, an insider from helping massacre 50 Iraqi police recruits. Under any conditions, the liberal hawks' brand of armchair generalship is stunningly glib.

Still, the inadequate-force objection might hold water if the liberal hawks had supported the war for the same reason the majority of Americans apparently did—a sincere belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed an immediate threat to the United States. This would have made the invasion a straightforward conquest of a lethal foe, in which case a vast and overwhelming force, and all the sacrifices that conquest demanded, would be not only justified but required, with the assumption that the postwar situation would involve suppression of the local population and military rule of the conquered enemy.

But the liberal hawks, by and large, did not emphasize (and in some cases did not even believe) the weapons of mass destruction argument. They supported the forward strategy of freedom, which had at its base the notion that postwar Iraq would be capable of self-sufficiency. If you took seriously the idea that the United States was liberating the people of Iraq, then the Rumsfeld doctrine of minimal force was the only one that made sense. If keeping Iraq on life support meant committing a vast occupying force indefinitely, then clearly Iraq wasn't a very good test case for the democratic experiment.

Those who discount the notion that Iraq had--and was seeking additional or replacement WMDs--should take a look at the mural behind Saddam's throne, now quiet and blissfully empty.

* Update: Hitchens is (more or less) still in the pro-Bush camp, at least.

Insta-Update: Glenn Reynolds writes:

It's unusual for me to find myself agreeing with Cavanaugh on the war, but I think he has this right. I thought that things were bad enough to justify going to war. I thought that other war supporters did, too, and that in supporting the war they understood that war means, well, war. Some, however, have made rather abrupt changes in position: Mark Steyn refers to them as "moulting hawks." I just hope that people settle down and focus on what's important after the election.
I agree with Glenn--but I think it would take another 9/11-sized attack on US soil for that happen.


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