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Clinton Did His Job

Aaron LarsonPerson was signed in when posted
12:42 PM ET (US)
Save for the invasion of Kuwait, which April Glaspie (presumably inadvertently) greenlighted, Saddam's behaviors were no different before that invasion than after. No, I take that back. Before the invasion, he had a far greater "destabilizing" effect on the region - he was at war with Iran. After Gulf War I he evidenced no territorial designs on his neighbors, and was not considered to be a military threat by any of his neighbors. Of his neighbors, only Kuwait actively supported Gulf War II. As for the arms he possessed, he armed under our watch as our ally, and we knew that whatever he possessed in 2003 it was a tiny fraction of what he possessed at the time of the first Gulf War. So how, exactly, did he destabilize anything at the time we chose to invade and topple his regime?

I've heard a lot of arguments presented for and against the war, mostly bad. Among them, the "moral" arguments for war seem to be based less on logic and more on hope - wishful thinking, really. If this "Saddam-like behaviors" argument is the best pro-war argument you can muster, I am not surprised that you remain ambivalent.
Chetly Zarko
12:43 AM ET (US)
"Saddam-like" behaviors didn't "cause 9/11" in my worldview; they fostered instability in a region of vital strategic interest to the United States. Such instability may lead to similar terrorism; it may not. In the wake of Gulf War I, the United States and world community had a reasonable right to regulate the conduct of the Iraqi regime and insist and on a disarmenent and inspection regime. The intelligence that Iraq sought WMD is not in significant dispute; the intelligence that he actually had succeed in developing a significant number of them is dubious. Saddam's refusal to abide by international law; and his refusal to succumb to an inspection regime the United States had a legitimate strategic interest in enforcing, was a causus belli for targeting him. 9/11
represented a quantum shift, properly, in the way the U.S. viewed and weighed the importance of enforcing this type of strategic interest. I believe that wars must both be morally justifiable and in a nation's strategic interest after using legitimate cost benefit analysis. A morally unjustifiable war that is merely in one's strategic interest is nothing more than international anarchy and thievery; a moral war that is against one's interest weakens otherwise "good" nations more than what is gained and thereby jeopardizes the nation and world in future relations and conflicts (negating its "moral value").

This is a complicated; but appropriately thought out view; is extremely hard to communicate; and I can sense that the President had difficulty in selling it. He may have either intentionally or unintentionally chose to "sell" the war on the simpler WMD grounds; and his choice of sales pitch certainly unnecessarily harmed the U.S.'s international reputation. I think the question of whether we had a moral right to enforce the inspection regime is less subject to historical review than the closer question of whether Saddam was worth the costs; and whether the war was "sold" improperly. A separate question is whether Bush himself understood the moral and strategic bases for the war; and whether he was therefore, from a philosophical perspective, internally justified. In this matter, my speculation would be absurd.

I do remember quite clearly that the inspectors who were in Iraq, who were mostly opposed to the war, nonetheless gave interviews about the obstruction and areas they were not allowed to inpsect. If the mere token of physical presence in Iraq is sufficient to satisfy our strategic interests and international law; then neither of those concepts mean anything. Reasonable compliance is the appropriate standard.

All of this said, I never said I supported the war. I'm ambivalent about the way it was conducted; but I do reluctantly recognize its potential basis. The statement "fog of war," is as applicable to the politics as it is to actual campaign. But the hyperbole of those on the extreme left calling Bush a war criminal for this action is a turn of irony; given the real crimes Saddam committed.
Aaron LarsonPerson was signed in when posted
03:32 PM ET (US)
Given that Afghanistan was (and perhaps remains) home to Bin Laden and his key followers, there was a causus belli for targeting Afghanistan. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, had no significant association with Al Qaeda, and hadn't planned or engaged in anti-U.S. terrorism (if you could the rumored plan to assassinate Bush I) since 1993. In what sense is Iraq a "closer call" than Afghanistan - it seems like a long-distance call to me.

And, sorry, the notion of "Saddam-like" behaviors somehow causing 9/11 doesn't cut it, either. To the extent that you are trying to say that the similarities in the behaviors of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt to the behaviors of Hussein are directly or indirectly responsible, the response is patent - if it is the behaviors you must attack, you pick the nations which had something to do with the attack. You know, like funding Al Qaeda or providing the terrorists who hijacked the planes and crashed them into buildings. Not the nation which has no ties to Al Qaeda, doesn't fund it, and didn't contribute any manpower.

Various Bush Administration insiders have expressed that WMD's were picked as the explanation for the attack on Iraq for a strategic reason - they were the cause that inspired the broadest support for invasion. It wasn't a "problem" that the Bush Administration focused on WMD's (unless you are one of those wacky liberals who wants an honest government) - without that focus, the war probably would not have occurred. Replace the Bush Administration's well-documented (and nonetheless oft-denied) statements about the grave threat posed by Iraq with an argument for liberation and democratization (i.e., "nation building"), and Bush probably couldn't have even achieved a majority vote for war within his own party.

Given that inspectors were present in Iraq until we forced them to leave in advance of the war, I don't think your preferred fictional basis for war, that Hussein wouldn't let them inspect his nation, would have held.
Chetly Zarko
01:25 PM ET (US)
I'd suggest that all "current administrations" "defend" their predecessor's actions on security issues; both for well-founded "continuity" reasons and for bureuacratic CYA reasons (so the next administration doesn't disclose all the dirty secrets of the previous one). On the whole, this is probably a good thing. I don't think the Republicans are well served by pointing out Clinton's actual lack of focus (first and foremost, Clinton's era was one without the foresight of 9/11 and without the importance it created for these issues); however, I sympathize with them responding in such a harsh way because of the criticism that was begun by Dean and is being continued by Kerry. I think the Democrats are even less well served by focusing on national security as an issue; primarily because had a Democrat been in office Afghanistan would have panned out exactly the same way and the way that Democrat viewed the rest of the planet with 9/11 as a backdrop would have rightfully changed to possibly include the closer call of Iraq. Saddam wasn't "responsible," at least directly, for 9/11; but Saddam-like behaviors were; and Saddam fomented problems in one of the most critically strategic regions of the world; in such a way and at so many different levels that his removal; once we realized the consequences of passivity (9/11); can be justified. The problem with the Bush public relations strategy is that it focused too much on WMD possession; rather than the combination of strategic criticalness and Saddam's general creation of instability. Sure, Saddam's refusal to allow inspections should always have been the raison d' etre of actual invasion; but not the grounds that the inspections would turn up anything; but rather on the grounds that not having a continuing inspection regime, a condition of the post 91 Gulf War agreements, would allow Saddam to slowly build them under cover of secrecy.
Lynne Fremont
09:48 AM ET (US)
I think that there are just some people who, for some reason, have to see everything in black and white. They cant wrap their minds around the concept of a politician whom they dont like who occasionally does good things. So, since they cant like Clinton because he is a democrat, they cant even imagine that he could have done anything right.

Of course, I say this as a person who has been having a really hard time finding good things about our current president but I am sure there must be something I could find if I digged hard enough.

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