Responding to the Bull(shit) Moose

Via Jonathan Potts, I saw this post by Marshall Wittman at the Bull Moose in which he writes:

“In the post-9/11 environment any American Administration would have erred on the side of vigilance concerning Saddam’s threat. That may not have been wise, but it wasn’t a case of lying and massive deceit.

The Moose does not have to trust George W. Bush to hold that view. He believes Tony Blair. For that matter, most of the Clinton national security team was convinced that Saddam posed a threat to American interests and security. It was hardly a vast neo-con conspiracy that brought us to war.”

I have two issues that I want to raise here. The first is that there is increasing evidence that there were lies told, most recently about the Italian intelligence going on about the forgeries that SISMI affiliated individuals supplied, but also in this useful post by Matthew Yglesias and secondly it is a process of decision making that Marshall Wittman elides over and assumes stupidity and incompetent decision making systems as typical and normal.

I agree with Mr. Wittman that after 9/11 a serious revaluation of the threat matrix and probability payoff tables needed to be taken on all potential threats and future conflict scenarios. Iraq easily falls under this categorization. Anyone serious about national security can accept this assumption of looking back over the data. I can easily understand and agree with his implicit argument that what was previously acceptable but minimal uncertainity with regards to Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and delivery mechanism systems could no longer be tolerated. More and better information was needed.

Many Democratic Senators took the line that they supported the resolution to use force to gain a credible threat of force to make inspections a viable way of gaining better information. Many Clinton administration officials also took this line. I can understand this line of logic; I was opposed at that time because of the Daniel Davies criteria of Bushian Policy Implementation, and the feeling that the decision was already pre-ordained before the policy was ever announced. I felt we were living in a world where new information or negative information would have no effect on the decision cycle. And that is what happened.

So if some Democrats and Clinton officials supported the authorization for the use of force on the credible threat grounds to coercively insert inspectors to gain more information, then the vote was a positive vote. The new information that we gained from the inspectors was that Hussein’s Iraq did not pose a threat to the United States as his WMD programs were at a state no more advanced than that of a modern university’s college of science and engineering could produce at a faculty luncheon. There was desire but no capability.

The inspections significantly reduced the uncertainity and the threat potential that Iraq posed to the United States. This was new information that we learned from September 2002 to March 17, 2003. Yet we saw a continued stream of bullshit come forth from the Bush administration, most notably the 16 words in the SotU, but also in the vast majority of the UN Presentation by Colin Powell. Most of his claims were debunked within 48 hours, including the frightening aluminium tubes for nuke construction. The evidence of a threat was being reduced every time new information was coming forward.

I was opposed to going to war in Iraq because I am a cynical and untrusting bastard who thought that we should really devote our efforts to winning a long lasting, non-narcotics based peace in Afghanstan and pushing Pakistan to reform. The bottom two thirds of Peter Bienart’s essay on muscular liberalism describes my views quite well. I can understand less cynical Democrats wanting to ensure our national security by getting better information and reducing uncertainity.

However Mr. Marshall does not stop there. His initial argument is an excellent defense of voting to authorize the use of force. However he extends beyond that and states that war was inevitable. If one believes in effective decision making systems, then the war was not inevitable for new information with increased confidence was coming in that the threat was not there. Raising the question as to how the hell the Bush administration makes decisions with a goal in mind, and screw reality in between is an extremely legitimate avenue of inquiry. Faith based decision making has led the United States to an expensive, power draining occupation and unless more effective decision and feedback loops are reinstituted, we will continually see failures pile atop of failures in the pursuit of short term political points.

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