Try to Be Clear, Andrew

Andrew Sullivan recently ran a letter by an anonymous reader asking: “Is Max Boot completely loony?” Funny, I had the same question about Andrew after reading his response to my post on whether we should be concerned about Prime Minister Maliki’s vague demands for a timetable for an eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Andrew takes particular objection to my assertion that “U.S. forces will need to remain in Iraq for years to nurture this embattled democracy–and not so incidentally to protect our own interests in the region.” He writes:

Not so incidentally? The Iraq war was not sold on the basis of protecting US interests in the region. It was sold on protecting us from a massively over-stated threat, and then to allow for a post-Saddam democracy of sorts. If the Iraqis ask us to leave, we have no business staying. And posts like Boot’s today can only reinforce suspicions that the real motive for invading Iraq was rather different – not incidentally – from that given at the time.

I don’t understand what Andrew is saying, and that’s not just a figure of speech. I really don’t get it. His second sentence (“The Iraq war was not sold on the basis of protecting US interests in the region”) contradicts the third sentence (“It was sold on protecting us from a massively over-stated threat, and then to allow for a post-Saddam democracy of sorts”). Leave aside the false implication that the creation of an Iraqi democracy was an afterthought–a commonly heard assertion from critics of the war, which ignores President Bush’s numerous references in prewar speeches about his desire to create an Iraqi democracy. The main reason for the invasion, of course, was the conclusion of the CIA and every other intelligence agency in the world that Saddam was developing weapons of mass destruction in violation of United Nations sanctions. The threat, as we later found out, was over-stated, but, based on the best intelligence we had, it was natural that most Americans (including you, Andrew) concluded that Saddam’s regime did pose a threat to “US interests in the region.” The war was “sold” precisely on the basis that we would eradicate this threat.

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Try to Be Clear, Andrew

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