Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 26, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

LIBYA AND THE BUSH DOCTRINE....A few days ago the Washington Post ran a headline that said, "Libya Vows to Give Up Banned Weapons; Two Decades of Sanctions, Isolation Wore Down Gaddafi." Charles Krauthammer has a few comments:

Yeah, sure. After 18 years of American sanctions, Moammar Kadafi randomly picks Dec. 19, 2003, as the day for his surrender. By amazing coincidence, Kadafi's first message to Britain principal United States war ally and conduit to White House war councils occurs just days before the invasion of Iraq. And his final capitulation to United States-British terms occurs just five days after Saddam Hussein is fished out of a rathole.

....The Democrats seem congenitally incapable of understanding that force has not just the effect of disarming the immediate enemy but a deterrent effect on others similarly situated. Iraq was not attacked randomly. It was attacked as part of a clearly enunciated policy now known as the Bush Doctrine of targeting, by preemptive war if necessary, hostile regimes engaged in terror, or refusing to come clean on WMDs, or both.

Mullah Omar did not get the message and is now hiding in a cave somewhere. Hussein did not get the message and ended up in a hole. Kadafi got the message.

Krauthammer overplays his hand here. Libya really has been making serious overtures to the west for several years, and Krauthammer's additional suggestion that Syria and Hezbollah have quieted down due to the war is laughable. They've been pretty quiet for some time now, and if anything, groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad have intensified their efforts over the past year.

Still, Krauthammer's basic point is worth paying attention to, even if he expresses it with his typical obnoxiousness. Gaddafi himself has admitted that the war influenced his decision, and common sense tells you that a demonstration of force makes future threats of force more credible. Not everybody reacts to that the way Gaddafi did, but some people do, and denying the obvious just makes you look either churlish or naive.

I continue to think that the war could have been handled better, and I continue to think that putting more of our resources into disrupting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan would have generated greater rewards. What's more, some countries Iran comes to mind might very well react to the war by redoubling their efforts to produce a nuclear deterrent, rather than capitulating. The mystifying belief that the most common reaction to loud public threats is to back down is perhaps the great central delusion of conservative thought.

So yes, there are downsides to the Bush Doctrine, lots of them, and that's why I don't support it. But there are also upsides, and Libya's transformation appears to be one of them. Acknowledging that doesn't make you soft on Bush, it just means you're willing to acknowledge the obvious.

Kevin Drum 11:31 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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