March 23, 2004

How soon we forget
Posted by Jon Henke

Over at TAPPED, Matthew Yglesias engages in an astounding bit of historic revisionism....

William Safire's latest column is dedicated to making what you might call the "unofficial" case for invading Iraq -- the blooming of democracy in Baghdad will set off a wave of Democratization throughout the Middle East, draining the swamp of terrorism, and solving all our problems. Safire's fellow Times conservative David Brooks also mentioned the president's "bold and idealistic . . . dream of democratizing the Middle East" in his latest effort.

You've got to admit that it's a nice dream, even if it's not the argument the president actually presented for war.

Oh, it's not, Matthew? Let's review the record. First, the Congressional Authorization for war....
Whereas the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) expressed the sense of Congress that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove from power the current Iraqi regime and promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime;
In November 2003, Bush said...
Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East -- countries of great strategic importance -- democracy has not yet taken root. .... The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.
But, you might argue, that was said after the war was over! Ok, but this wasn't....
[Condoleeza Rice] said that America and its allies wished to be seen as "liberators" promoting "democratisation or the march of freedom in the Muslim world".
But, you might argue, that was merely rhetoric, not policy. Ok, but this is policy...
We will: ... make freedom and the development of democratic institutions key themes in our bilateral relations, seeking solidarity and cooperation from other democracies while we press governments that deny human rights to move toward a better future;
And so is this....
We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.
And finally, the piece de resistance: Bush at the United Nations in 2002....
If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future.

The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world.

These nations can show by their example that honest government and respect for women and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond.

Now, what was that again about Bush not presenting the "democratization" argument for war? Perhaps it didn't make it to the pages of The Nation, but the argument was most certainly made.

UPDATE: Added to the Beltway Traffic Jam

UPDATE II: Matthew Yglesias has responded in an email, clarified his statement, and made some good points. Unfortunately, I don't have time to give it a proper debate right now, but I intend to post on the topic soon.

In the meantime, I should mention this: Matt was courteous and thoughtful.....which makes me feel badly about being a bit snarky above. I apologize, and retract the snarkiness. While I don't often agree with his conclusions, Matt is one of the more fair and thoughtful pundits. He deserves an exchange of ideas, rather than sarcasm. When I respond, I'll do so accordingly.

We will still disagree, I'm sure. We are, after all, bloggers. It's what we do.

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