"good war" + "bad case" still = "good war deserving support" (was Re: "[Bush's] inarticulateness has become .. a national security threat for the US"

Gordon Mohr gojomo@usa.net
Sat, 22 Mar 2003 13:06:40 -0800


Russell Turpin forwards a quote from Paul Berman in Salon:
> "In my interpretation, the basic thing that the
> United States wants to do -- overthrow Saddam
> and get rid of his weapons -- is sharply in the
> interest of almost everybody all over the world.
> And although the U.S. is proposing to act in the
> interest of the world, Bush has managed to
> terrify the entire world and to turn the world
> against him and us and to make our situation
> infinitely more dangerous than it otherwise
> would have been. It's a display of diplomatic
> and political incompetence on a colossal scale.
> We're going to pay for this."
> 
> The full interview is in Salon. I thought it
> relevant to the current debate between Hall
> and Bone. You'll have to click through an ad,
> but they've made it pretty easy:
> 
> http://www.salon.com/books/int/2003/03/22/berman/

An excellent article, clear-eyed about the threats of radical
Islamism and Baathism. 

But let's just focus for a moment on the key sentiment
captured in the above passage:

  "The war is a good idea, but Bush hasn't made 
   the best possible case."

If you believe this, it's awfully pissy to just keep 
piling on Bush. For whatever reason -- his personal 
limitations, gaps in his team, or the world environment 
(more on this in a separate message) -- Bush hasn't and 
perhaps *cannot* make the best possible case for war. 

Even if you are disappointed, angry, or ashamed of Bush's
rhetorical failures, if you believe the war is justified,
the serious, sensible course of action is to *help make the 
right case for war*, and further now that the war has begun,
*help the war effort in the right directions*.

Sure, Salon plays up the complaints against Bush, to make 
this interview more interesting to Salon's reflexively
anti-Bush readership. But Berman himself doesn't chiefly
want to criticize Bush: he wants to implore liberals, 
including opponents of the war, to stop dwelling on the
prewar rhetoric and get behind an effective war and postwar
program. Berman says:

   "So I wish Bush had gone about it differently. But now 
    that the thing is getting under way, I fervently hope 
    it goes well. And I think that the attitude of everyone 
    with the best of motives who have opposed the war, 
    should now shift dramatically. The people who have 
    demanded that Bush refrain from action should now 
    demand that the action be more thorough. The danger now 
    is that we will go in and go out too quickly and leave 
    the job half-done. The position of the antiwar movement 
    and of liberals should be that the United States fulfill 
    entirely its obligations to replace Saddam with a decent 
    or even admirable system. We've done this in Afghanistan 
    but only in most halfhearted way. We should now do more 
    in Afghanistan and do a lot in Iraq. The people who've 
    opposed the war should now demand that Bush do more."

If even a small proportion of those in the antiwar movement
embraced this Berman position, I'd find their overall 
philosophy a lot more respectable and coherent. 

As it is now, it seems like the only unifying principles of 
antiwar types are a hatred for Bush and an incredibly deep
conservatism -- conservative in the sense of fearing all 
change unless success is certain and everyone in the world
agrees (an impossible standard).

- Gordon