Quick Thought: Double Standard?

March 29, 2011

President Obama finally gave a speech last night about his military action in Libya—what, ten days after American military operations started?  If I remember correctly, we had to have the national debate about whether to begin the second Iraq War (which, unlike this, was arguably just a continuation and finishing of the first one) for at least the better part of a year, and liberals still decried the “rush” to war.  I hope liberals will judge President Obama by the same standard.

Update (March 29th, 2011): Victor Davis Hanson at National Review Online notes,

There was no mention of the Congress. Is he going to ever ask its approval? And if not, why the repeated emphasis on asking others such as the Arab League or the UN for their approval — given that their representatives, unlike ours, are largely not elected?

Yes, come to think of it, President Bush also had Congress’s authorization for the use of force.

8 Responses to “Quick Thought: Double Standard?”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    Which is worse, failing to get the approval of Congress for military action, or manufacturing evidence and lying to the United Nations and the American people about the justification for military action?

  2. I don’t think it’s fair to say that President Bush lied; that’s just a catchy accusation to throw around at protest marches (“Bush lied, kids died”). We know that Saddam Hussein had had weapons of mass destruction in the past (he had used nerve gas to kill his own people en masse), and we know that he was working on developing nuclear weapons for the future. It’s true that he didn’t have as much weapons of mass destruction as we thought at the time we invaded, but do I remember correctly that a lot of members of Congress had access to the same intelligence that Bush did, and came to the same decision (namely to authorize the use of force)?

    Importantly, the way I remember it (contrary to what anti-war liberals tried to tell us after the war started), weapons of mass destruction were also never the only rationale given or discussed. Two others were the humanitarian rationale (Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who punished dissenters with torture and death; he kept rape rooms, fed men alive into wood chippers, etc.) and the democratic rationale (President Bush’s hope that a stable, free, and democratic Iraq could help lead to more freedom and democracy throughout the region).

    In short, we had the debate. You don’t have to agree with what the president, Congress, and the American people chose, but I think the facts leave you with only the modest option of saying that you disagree with what many people chose, not that one man lied and manipulated and the rest of us had no say in the matter.

  3. My mistake—the update at the end of the source I linked above implies that Saddam Hussein had not had an active nuclear program since the first Gulf War. But whether he had an active nuclear program in 2003 or merely planned to restart his nuclear program as soon as he could, the fact remains that, in the view of many Americans, the status quo was untenable. If memory serves, we had had sanctions and a no-fly zone for more than a decade, since the first Gulf War, which had not ended with a treaty but merely settled into a long truce (which Hussein broke from time to time, shooting at our planes patrolling the no-fly zone). It was time either to pull out or to finish the job.

  4. Snoodickle Says:

    Colin Powell’s chief of staff has produced a memorandum from German intelligence explicitly stating that Sadam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction in 2003. The White House was in possession of that memorandum before Powell went before the United Nations to testify, but intentionally withheld that information from Powell. Powell’s chief of staff has explicitly said that the President Bush, in conjunction with Vice President Cheney, lied to the American people.

    Thus, the facts, as you say, lead me to the conclusion that Colin Powell, the United Nations, and the American people were lied to. I am confident, though, that no matter how overwhelming the evidence, you would never admit that President Bush lied.

  5. I’d like to see that evidence, but even if I saw it, I don’t think that would be “overwhelming” evidence; you’re saying that there was one memo from one foreign country’s intelligence agency saying that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction in 2003. Taking the existence of that memo as given for purposes of argument, it’s possible that the Bush administration had to weigh that against any number of pieces of evidence tending to indicate the opposite (that there were still WMDs in 2003). The opinion of Powell’s chief of staff would be interesting but not dispositive, especially as regards President Bush’s internal beliefs and motivations (which make the difference between lying and being merely mistaken).

    No, I think I’m willing to be shown that I’m wrong. As a Christian, I understand that men are fallen; I hold no illusions that George W. Bush is perfect, and I bet he would be the first to agree that he’s a sinner just like the rest of us. But at the same time, it looks to me an awful lot as if many liberals were eager to assume the worst motives of conservatives, including President Bush.

  6. Snoodickle Says:

    If, as you surmise, the memorandum was merely a piece of evidence to be weighed against others, why would the White House intentionally withhold such evidence from its Secretary of State, a man who had been part of the decision-making process from the beginning?

  7. Yes, if the situation was really as you describe, I agree that that sounds bad. But I’d like to see the evidence. In particular, I don’t know that that memo existed, that it was withheld from General Powell, or what the intentions were behind withholding it.

  8. Snoodickle never did provide any sources, but I’ll add this anyway. I happened to run across it today and thought it might be relevant. I provide it with no further comment.


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