Rich and Victor, I wonder what you think of this. I’ve just read David Horowitz and Ben Johnson’s interesting new book, Party of Defeat. They incline more to VDH’s side of this question (as do I) that too much stock was placed in the WMD argument, to the detriment of other just causes. But they also stress a point I must confess I never thought as much about as I should have: namely, that it is, and was, important to separate the rationale for the war from the selling of the war.
The rationale, they assert, is irrefutable: Saddam was in violation of numerous UN resolutions, including 1441 which promised severe consequences in the event of continued defiance. The main idea, I think, is that the Left has more interest than we do in the viability of international institutions like the UN and the functionality of international law (which, of course, is clearly violated when Security Council resolutions are flouted). All this is hindsight, of course, but if a more effective job had been done of hammering away at this rationale, the Left would not have been as free to discredit the war. If that rationale was better anchored in the public consciousness, would Americans have been more forgiving about WMD?
To be clear, I haven’t made up my mind about this — I’m not sure this would have rallied the American people to the cause anymore than democracy-promotion. But it wasn’t the president’s supporters who needed convincing. Could we — should we — have done a better job of neutralizing the opposition by pinning them down (regardless of WMD, terror ties, democracy-promotion, etc.) on the principle that the international system had to be vindicated or it would, as President Bush suggested in his UN speech, shrivel into irrelevancy?