“The real anomaly in the Administration is Cheney. I consider Cheney a good friend — I’ve known him for thirty years. But Dick Cheney I don’t know anymore… I don’t think Dick Cheney is a neocon, but allied to the core of neocons is that bunch who thought we made a mistake in the first Gulf War, that we should have finished the job. There was another bunch who were traumatized by 9/11, and who thought, ‘The world’s going to hell and we’ve got to show we’re not going to take this, and we’ve got to respond, and Afghanistan is O.K., but it’s not sufficient.'” – Brent Scowcroft, in the new New Yorker.

Well … the question begged is whether Cheney was actually right, if he entertained those two possibilities. After 9/11, the cost-benefit analysis changed a little, didn’t it? Who would want to be the president who gambled (in retrospect, correctly, of course) that Saddam was no WMD threat, and then discovered that some terrorist detonated a Saddam-linked chemical weapon in a major U.S. city? Do you think that president would now be popular? It’s easy to know now, not so easy to have known for sure then. Scowcroft prides himself on always asking about the potential downside. Well, there wsa a pretty major potential downside of trusting Saddam Hussein in 2002. The question was never simply whether we knew the WMDs existed or not. The question was whether, without being able to know for sure, we could trust Saddam to keep such weapons away from terrorists. There’s a realist case for the Iraq war: that the risks of inaction were too high, and that the threat posed by the entire region demanded a radical departure from the acquiescence to autocracy of the past. Scowcroft’s hindsight is a little too easy. He should enjoy it while others deal with reality; and try to change the world for the better.

HOMECOMING QUEEN: In more ways than one.


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