Rich – That’s all fair. I don’t dispute that if we hadn’t gone to war in 2003, or if we knew then what we know now, that Saddam might well still be in power. It’s even the most likely scenario. We seized a moment, and as I said in that column , I think the pro-war side had the better argument at the time. But sometimes the better arguments turn out to be wrong when tested by reality. I subscribe to lots of might-have-been views on the war, and if it had been done right (assuming it could be), I wouldn’t have cared one whit about the WMD stuff. But the argument for toppling Saddam — from my point of view — was never that he was the greatest threat we face, but that he was the easiest target among various great threats. Iraq, obviously, has not turned out to be so easy (as a side note, I heard Ralph Peters on C-Span this morning making a very similar case). I’m a big supporter of the war on terror and I would like to think that even if we hadn’t gone to war in 2003, I would still have favored an aggressive policy toward Iraq. That means maybe we could have waited until 2004 or used proxies or done X, Y or Z.
Chait meanwhile was trying to play some kind of gotchya where he could claim that I was advocating the same position as him. My only point was that my view that the war was a mistake doesn’t necessarily require that my preference would be an Iraq with Saddam in power today. It’s possible, but certainly not my preferred position. Moreover, saying we should re-install Saddam simply isn’t remotely the same thing as saying we shouldn’t have deposed him the way we did. Just reverse it to see what I mean. If I wrote that all liberals who opposed the war really want to re-install Saddam, I’d get spammed from angry liberals for months.
Oh, one last point: Whatever I think about how we got into Iraq, the fact is we are there and a premature bug-out (er, “redeployment”) would be a disaster.