But Rich, that is exactly the point: when or if things got rough, then the exact arguments for going to war would suddenly become ever more important; and common sense dictated that it was better to have a number of them, especially as few of them hinged on intelligence but were matters of fact, than just one. I understand that privileging WMD offered a more dramatic context, but also more risk.
Second, by default we wouldn’t have invested only in the democracy argument that was tied to Bush alone and caricatured as naivete (rather than admirable idealism which it was) when the Congress proposed and owned the numerous others. And look at the surreal situation we are in today: all those legitimate reasons to remove Saddam which were so carefully explained by the Congress are now irrelevant or forgotten; and those who proposed and authorized them all hid their flip-flopping in the WMD bogeyman.
Left unsaid is the obvious: had the insurgency been crushed at the outset, all this hindsight would be now irrelevant. Had Iraq looked in 2003 like it does today, there would have never been ‘Bush lied, thousands died’.
But such things are reversible as well: should Petraeus continue as he has, we will begin to see Democratic politicans reclaim Iraq (e.g., ‘my opposition to the war made possible the necessary changes’), and former supporters in the punditocracy who bailed likewise insidiously nudge backwards, offering at times the similar ‘my principled criticism led to necessary introspection and eventual success; your blanket unqualified support only encouraged the same mediocrity.’
On a different topic: watching Scott McClellan makes one cringe: the idea that he once defended his country like he does his book is beyond tragic. And to hear that he has a brother in appointed government is more staggering still. In the past, his very ineptness always garnered a certain sense of empathy, as in the case of the nocturnal deer frozen in the path of the semi–but now that single consideration is gone as well.