Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Who's arrogant Mr. Saletan?

William Saletan reviews Dean's speech today before the Council on Foreign Relations (speech here, review here).
I used to wonder why Dean’s confidence deserted him when it came to defense and foreign policy. Two months ago, at a forum hosted by the Children’s Defense Fund, Dean said of Saddam Hussein, “We’ve gotten rid of him, and I suppose that’s a good thing, but there’s going to be a long period where the United States is going to need to be maintained in Iraq, and that’s going to cost American taxpayers a lot of money that could be spent on schools and kids.” I was one of many viewers who choked on the words “I suppose.” How exactly was getting rid of Saddam not a good thing? Why the need for supposition? Wednesday, Dean again laced his remarks with caveats. “Increasing numbers of people in Europe, Asia, and in our own hemisphere cite America not as the strongest pillar of freedom and democracy but, somewhat unfairly, as a threat to peace,” he said. Of Iraq, he added, “Although we may have won the war, we are failing to win the peace.” Somewhat? May have? Why the ambivalence? Why the uncertainty? What dawned on me as I stood in the room with Dean, watching his stony expression, is that these comments don’t reflect uncertainty. They reflect overconfidence. Long before the Iraq war, Dean made up his mind that it would be a failure and would rightly alarm other countries. In fact, the war was a swift success (even if the peace isn’t), and foreign depictions of the United States as a bloodthirsty empire are lies. The reason Dean inserts qualifiers such as “somewhat,” “may have,” and “I suppose” is that he hates to concede anything. That’s his story, and he’s stickin’ to it.
Mr. Saletan is befuddled by Howard Dean. He just can't figure him out. He can't figure out why Dean would even think of using qualifiers when assessing the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Everyone knows it was an unqualified success. Right? Mr. Saletan has come to the conclusion that the reason Dean uses those qualifiers is because he can't admit that he was wrong about the war in Iraq. He is to arrogant about his opinion on the matter to admit that he made a mistake. Of course, Mr. Saletan never even considers the possibility that Dean qualifies his comments on the success of the Iraqi operation because IT WASN'T AN UNQUALIFIED SUCCESS! Sure, we got rid of Saddam, but did we actually make the world safer from terrorism? Have we found and secured the WMD? Have we proven that Saddam was aiding an abetting terrorists with that alleged program? Have those weapons fallen into the hands of terrorists because we fucked up the post-invasion phase of the operation? Are the Iraqi people and the rest of the world more or less likely to turn against in the coming years? Is the rest of the world more or less likely to help us out if and when that happens? Who is the arrogant one here Mr. Saletan: Howard Dean, for pointing out the blemishes on the Iraq campaign or his critics for continuing to insist that it was an unqualified success?


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