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Talk like Stanley Kurtz[‘s] misses the central point: there wasn’t enough support to do the things he says and there never would’ve been. That’s the central argument against doing it!!! It simply wasn’t worth the cost to America and the world to undertake a mission with such a crushing ratio of required effort to possible success. Sure, sure, if the entire world agreed that taking out Saddam Hussein was a central point of emphasis for the world’s political infrastructure, it would’ve had a greater chance of success. But the Bush Administration knew it could never make that case, so it deliberately concealed (possibly from itself, even, but certainly from the outside world) how costly it would be. Simply put, if they were honest about the potential costs, they never, ever would’ve gotten enough political support to invade. Only by grossly exaggerating the danger of Saddam and grossly downplaying the difficulty of the mission could they get the political support to do what they did.

It was a stupid idea from the beginning for that very reason, and to treat it now like that’s some little miscalculation in planning is disingenuous in the extreme. Or delusional.

This is a central, perhaps the central issue in the whole shambling, tragic, dingbat debate. But we don’t return to it often enough. Saying the American people don’t have what it takes to finish the job, or come up with a new job or, really, figure out a way to help George W. Bush keep his job in Iraq amounts to blaming the public for the lies this White House told to get the country into the war. It’s really that simple.

The American people probably also don’t have what it takes to terraform Mongolia, remake it into a summer vacation paradise and annex it to the United States to benefit from all new tax revenue. But do we really need to? Not a perfect analogy, I grant you. But not that far off either.

Consider a thought experiment. Let’s go back to late 2002 and early 2003. Assume that the build up on the WMD front is more or less as it transpired. But assume, for our counterfactual, that the costs of what we were getting into had been made pretty candidly clear. Half a million troops to secure the place, maybe years of occupation and nation-building. Then you get to early 2003 when it was clear that even if there was some mustard gas hidden away somewhere, that beside those lamo rockets the inspectors found, there really weren’t any big WMD programs or stockpiles. Remember, that was clear, before the war started. Once that was clear, and if people knew the costs of what we were getting ourselves into, is there any way the president would have had any support for still going to war, pretty much just for the hell of it?

This is the key. Yes, the American people probably won’t support what it takes to make this happen. That’s because they make a perfectly rational calculation that so much blood and money for no particular reason just isn’t worth it. They’re only in this situation because President Bush and his advisors gamed the public into this war on false pretenses knowing that once they were it would be almost impossible to get back out.

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