The intellectual failure of Bush’s “yes, but” critics

This fatuous and dishonest piece by James Mann of the Los Angeles Times appears in today’s Washington Post. Its thesis is that the U.N. detour represents “a major intellectual failure by the Bush adminstration.” It seems clear that the detour was a mistake, as I argued before we ever took it. However, Mann fails to make his case that it was a major intellectual failure.
Mann argues that it was apparent last fall that Bush could not both have his attack on Iraq and adhere to his preference for acting with broad international support. At that point, according to Mann, Bush should have either abandoned his plan to attack Iraq or stopped seeking allied approval. I agree that Bush should have stopped worrying about approval, but this is because I do not think such approval is important, or even necessarily desirable, in cases where we have the military capacity to act alone. Bush does not share that view; nor, as far as I can tell, does Mann. In fact, the conventional wisdom, and the opinion of most Americans, is that the more international support the better. Accordingly, it was not unreasonable for Bush to attempt to rally international support for his position, as long as he remained willing to proceed with whatever support (or lack of support) he ultimately garnered. Mann does not even attempt to explain why he thinks the U.S. would be materially better off if we had parted company with a few of our former allies last fall, instead of parting company with them now. Indeed, one strongly suspects that Mann would have led the chorus of disapproval had Bush ignored the U.N. last fall without trying to rally support for a strong U.N resolution, such as the one Bush obtained. Clearly, then, Mann’s quarrel is with the decision to attack Iraq in the face of disapproval from France and Germany, not with the timing of Bush’s decision to act despite their disapproval. Mann, however, is not willing to argue in favor of his preferred course of action, which would require him to defend leaving the dictator of Iraq in power. So he takes the easy course of carping about damage to our alliances, damage that was inevitable unless we were willing to leave Saddam Hussein in power indefinitely. This is also the approach of the cowardly Democrats who are trying to find ways to fault Bush without questioning his underlying policy on Iraq, whch they believe will be both a military and a popular success.
Mann’s article is dishonest in another respect. He blames the Adminstration’s hawks, in particular Paul Wolfowitz, for the U.N. detour. Does anyone really believe that the detour was Wolfowitz’a brainchild, rather than Colin Powell’s? This is pure spin, as Rocket Man points out in his post below about the latest Newsweek article. As we move into war, it is sad to see such intellectual dishonesty and jockeying by opportunistic politicians and their journalist friends.


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