Monday, February 12, 2007

Iraq The Vote

There is an interesting dynamic developing in the Democratic Presidential race:
AMES, Iowa (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama drew a contrast with rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Iraq war on Sunday and said it was unclear how she planned to end the conflict.

On the day after he formally launched his 2008 White House bid, Obama said on a campaign swing through Iowa that even before the war began it was possible to see the dangerous consequences of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"Even at the time, it was possible to make judgments that this would not work out well," the Illinois senator told reporters, indirectly contrasting his stance with presidential rivals Clinton and John Edwards, who both voted to authorize the war in 2002.

Clinton, now a war critic who has promised to end the conflict if she wins the White House, has been criticized by some Democrats for her 2002 Senate vote on authorization and for not renouncing the vote.
So, we have three possible positions to take on the vote to authorize the President to go to war in Iraq: Voted for it, and stand by that vote; voted for it, but repudiated it; would not vote for it.

Of course, Obama's cynical calculation of his position on the Iraq war vote in 2002 is meaningless: he wasn't a senator and is therefore free to say whatever he feels will draw the most attention. Since the war is going badly and the majority of people in the United States (certainly, the majority of Democrats) oppose the war now, this is the easiest position to take, requiring no finessing.

Too, Edwards gets a bit of a free pass on this, since it wasn't until he was out of the Senate that he declared his vote was "wrong", whatever that means. Kinda easy to paint your former colleagues as warmongers when you don't have to face them in chambers any longer. Had he done it during the 2004 campaign, he'd have shown a bit more backbone.

Which leaves Hillary's stance. Say what you will about her vote to authorize war and her nuanced excuse for that vote (like Obama, I would have voted against the war. Like Obama, that's an easy thing for me to say) the simple fact remains that she's correct: the vote in October 2002 was about leaving Bush the option to use force if necessary.

Now, let's take a closer look at that vote.

1) If Hussein had WMDs AND was threatening to use them against the United States, then tying Bush's hands behind his back might have had unforseen consequences, such as the destruction of Jerusalem or Riyadh or Kuwait. The intelligence that Bush and Clinton had access to indicated this was the case, and it was imperative that weapons inspectors get back into Iraq and find them. To have the cudgel of being able to enforce that demand was an imperative. Bush promised to allow inspectors time to complete their work. The one thing that gets overlooked in all of this was the unknown that Bush had an agenda against Iraq that pre-existed September 11. HAD ANYONE KNOWN THAT PIECE OF INTELLIGENCE, no doubt they would have voted against the authorization bill.

2) If Hussein did NOT have WMDs, but was bluffing (as he substantiated in his November 2002 reply to the United Nations, something the United States, even Democrats, poo pooed), then allowing weapons inspectors would have been the last thing Hussein would have wanted, therefore (as noted above) it was imperative that Bush have at least some military backing to force his hand.

Under either circumstance, then, that vote had to be in favor of giving Bush the authority.

To her credit, Hillary has said "Had I known then..." Hindsight is 20/20, and considering that nearly 70% of Americans at the time supported the war, it's very unfair now to hold her up to ridicule for that vote. I'd wager that about half the people who heckle her now were all "Oh, let's get Saddam!" back then. I'd even wager about a third of those are Republicans who are stirring the pot to foment a rift in the Democratic primary system.

I didn't support this war for the same reasons I didn't support Gulf War I, or any "war" we've waged since and including Vietnam. War is almost always wrong. We had no national interest vested in it, and as such, we had no business letting our boys and girls die in it. That Hillary or John or anyone else voted to authorize the use of force as opposed to simply voting against it is a matter of disagreement, but that won't stop me from voting for either of them, if I believe they are the best candidate for the job. Period.

And I've voted for Edwards and Clinton whenever I have had the chance to, and will have to take a long hard look at my vote in the New York primary should the two of them survive the process to that point (same with Obama, even though this will be my first opportunity to vote for him).

All three have said we need to get our troops home, and all three have stated that it's up to Bush to do so, so any of those three positions I can support. To look back now four, five and soon six years is pointless.