Tuesday, March 23, 2004

My two pfennigs

There is far to much to write about with respect to Richard Clarke and his accusations against the Bush administration. But there is something I would like to say: I haven't clue one whether the Bush administration, prior to 9/11, was any more attentive to the problem of terrorism than the Clinton administration was. I'm just not fluent enough in the field to pass any meaningful judgement on that matter. It may very well be that Clark is a bit of a crank who made himself a pain-in-the-ass to both administrations but turned out, in hindsight, to be justified in his concerns.

Any time something goes horribly wrong you can probably find at least one or two people who warned that it could happen and they come off looking brilliantly prophetic in the matter. The truth is that if 9/11 had never happened then Clarke would have been an asterisk in the history books.

Now, if the Bushies were to insist that there just wasn't much they could have done to prevent 9/11 by the time they came into power I might be willing to cut them some slack (that is, if I was able to forget that the fact that they are Bushies and are therefore prone to lying.) However, the Bushies are trying to do more than just insist that they couldn't have done any better. No, they are insisting that they were doing better than the Clinton administration. It's just that they didn't have enough time to put their brilliant ideas into action.

Yet, this brilliant idea they had developed would have required at least three years to develop (their estimate). As Slade Gorton commented in the hearings today, why did they even think they had the luxury of 7 months, let alone three years?

It's their insistence that they are not only competent but that their competence far outstrips everyone else's, despite all evidence to the contrary, that really gets on my nerves. If they would at least admit that they are human like the rest of us then maybe I could stand to listen to their point of view. But that isn't good enough for these guys. They have to be right in everything they do. Otherwise, if they are wrong about one thing, they might as well admit they might be wrong about other things, and the minute they admit that then they lose all credibility in their own eyes.

It's that moral absolutism again. If something is right then it is always right. If something is good than it is always good. It's a moral belief system that must continually reassert itself if it is not to collapse into utter chaos. Better the rest of the world go to hell than that happen.

Update: billmon has some good comments on how Clarke is the kind of hawk that the Bushies should be embracing were it not for the fact that he is calling them out for their weak response to the terrorist threat.

The truth is that if the Clintonites did relatively little to attack and destroy bin Laden (I'm not saying I buy the accusation, but just for the sake of the argument), the Bushies appear to have done virtually nothing in their first nine months in office to stop -- in Wolfowitz's words -- that "one little man." In other words, if Clarke was a hawkish voice crying in the wilderness under Clinton, he was even more of a lost soul in the pre-9/11 Bush administration -- in no small part because of the team's preoccupation with Iraq.

billmon is commenting on what he considers the best response from the right so far to Clarke's accusations:

Geraghty also indulges in the revisionist trick of retroactively projecting the Bush II administration's hyperconcern with terrorism backwards into the period before 9/11 -- in order to draw a fictional distinction between Clinton's "words" and Bush's "actions." By implication, this holds Clinton liable for not doing the things it became possible for Bush to do in the very different atmosphere of national emergency that followed 9/11.

The truth of the matter is that there were a lot of institutional roadblocks to anyone, Republican or Democrat, making a meaningful strike against the threat that al Qaeda posed. The attacks on 9/11 broke through those roadblocks and allowed the Bush administration to do things that couldn't have been done before and a lot of people give them credit for doing just that. I do as well (though I think that any reasonable leader would have done essentially the same thing in the same situation).

But the Bushies want us to believe that Bush was already breaking through those roadblocks before 9/11. There simply isn't all that much evidence to back up that assertion.

Update 2: It occurs to me that if billmon is right and Clarke is an uber-hawke (bomb everyone, let God sort out the mess) then maybe the reason he is more upset with the Bush administration than the Clinton administration is that he was expecting them to be more inclined to listen to his recommendations.


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