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Howard Dean, on the Iraq War
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Glenn Greenwald uses the All Is Lost Buckley column to review "the pre-war arguments made by Howard Dean". Citing a February 17, 2003 speech wherein Dean argued that "The Administration has not explained how a lasting peace, and lasting security, will be achieved in Iraq once Saddam Hussein is toppled" and "Iraq is a divided country, with Sunni, Shia and Kurdish factions that share both bitter rivalries and access to large quantities of arms." Greenwald lauds Dean's prescience and foreign policy judgement, writing...
Can anyone dispute that Dean was right about virtually every prediction and claim he made, every warning that he issued about why invading Iraq was ill-advised and counter-productive?

I'm not sure that Greenwald is looking for contrary data, but I'll try to accept the challenge by citing a post I wrote last year in response to a similar column by John Judis:

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Did you know Dean thought we ought to give Saddam a 30-60 day deadline, and then go into Iraq unilaterally?
He gets a deluge of phone calls from reporters asking him to clarify his position. Which is—"as I've said about eight times today," he says, annoyed—that Saddam must be disarmed, but with a multilateral force under the auspices of the United Nations. If the U.N. in the end chooses not to enforce its own resolutions, then the U.S. should give Saddam 30 to 60 days to disarm, and if he doesn't, unilateral action is a regrettable, but unavoidable, choice.

Did you know Howard Dean thought that Iraq was a threat to the United States?
"There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the United States and to our allies. The question is, is he an immediate threat? The president has not yet made the case for that."
Did you know that Howard Dean said that President Bush never said Iraq was an immediate threat?
[I]'m not convinced yet and the president has not yet made the case, nor has he ever said, this is an immediate threat. In fact, the only intelligence that has been put out there is the British intelligence report, which says he is a threat but not an immediate one.
Did you know that Howard Dean said that unilateral preemption would be justified if we believed Saddam Hussein could give WMDs to terrorist groups?
SCHIEFFER: [W]hat if he had the means to give them to another terrorist group who could bring them into this country in a suitcase?

DEAN: Well, that's correct, that would certainly be grounds for us to intervene, and if we had so unilaterally, we could do that.
Did you know that Howard Dean said that his problem with the war in Iraq wasn't whether we actually invaded Iraq, but whether we had enough allies?
[My] problem is not whether we're going to end up in Iraq or not. Saddam Hussein appears to be doing everything he can to make sure we do go into Iraq. My problem is, it is important to bring in our allies.
Did you know that Howard Dean espoused a policy of unilateral preemption against Iraq almost identical to that we ultimately undertook?
Look, it's very simple. Here's what we ought to have done. We should have gone to the U.N. Security Council. We should have asked for a resolution to allow the inspectors back in with no pre-conditions. And then we should have given them a deadline saying "If you don't do this, say, within 60 days, we will reserve our right as Americans to defend ourselves and we will go into Iraq."

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Howard Dean was certainly correct to express serious reservations about our ability to construct a cohesive society and united post-war government out of the bitter factions in Iraq — though he seemed to regard those internal problems as much less important than creating a broad coalition. Books can be written about the structural inability of our military to perform nation-building tasks — indeed, they already have — and the administration's insufficient attention to this limitation.

But let's remember that the Democratic alternative prior to the Bush administration was not to avoid civil war in Iraq. Howard Dean himself said that "my problem is not whether we're going to end up in Iraq or not." Meanwhile, the Democratic alternative was to "give robust support to the groups that are trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein" — a plan that, if carried through, would explicitly and uncontrollably start a civil war in Iraq, with little hope that we could help guide the process. And they didn't appear to be any more concerned about the sectarian conflicts than did the Bush administration...
I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's history or its ethnic or sectarian make-up. Iraqis deserve and desire freedom like everyone else. The United States looks forward to a democratically supported regime that would permit us to enter into a dialogue leading to the reintegration of Iraq into normal international life. -— President Clinton, upon signing the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998
 
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Jon,

Like an inveterate politician, Dean-o played as many sides of an issue as he seems to have done. In retrospect, that was a smart move, allowing his supporters to cherry-pick quotations to make him look precient. Give the man credit for trying.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
Jon, that’s dirty pool! Quoting politicians directly? For shame! You and your damn "facts," making everyone look like the ass they are...
 
Written By: Matt McIntosh
URL: http://conjecturesandrefutations.net
Nice quote mining. Well done.
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
Howard Dean was certainly correct to express serious reservations about our ability to construct a cohesive society and united post-war government out of the bitter factions in Iraq — though he seemed to regard those internal problems as much less important than creating a broad coalition
Boots on the ground.

I kept waiting for a quote that showed that Dean was NOT concerned about the post-war situation. And yet, I did not find one.

A broad coalition means more troops. More troops means more security. More security would have been the best antidote to the current mess that is Iraq. In other words, a broad coalition would have been the best remedy for the internal problems. You suggest that a broad coalition and internal security are somehow inconsistent ends. That suggestion could not be more wrong.

The bottom line is this: Dean understanding of Iraq was far greater than Bush’s. At least Dean knew the difference between a Shiite and a Sunni before the war. As I have noted previously, Bush did not know the difference in January 2003, less than 2 months before the war began. (A point that - to the best of my knowledge - this blog has ignored.)

I find criticism of Dean from the right amusing. The quotes even more so. They showed he agreed with the wingers about the nature of the threat posed by Saddam, so the wingers can’t be upset with him about that. The quotes from Greenwald show that Dean was also aware of the risks of our post-war occupation, unlike Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld. Of course, given that his fears became reality, the wingers really can’t be upset with him about that either.
You and your damn "facts," making everyone look like the ass they are...
So was Dean an ass because he agreed with the wingers about the nature of the threat posed by Saddam? Or was he an ass because he was mostly right about the post-war situation?



 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
If Dean had only wanted more boots on the ground, he would have said that. In any event, more troops probably would have increased security initially — and I think that would have been good — but I see no reason to believe that it would have prevented the sectarian problems from eventually manifesting themselves. Nor do I see any evidence that either Dean, Gore or Clinton’s proposed solutions would have prevented those problems, either.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Nor do I see any evidence that either Dean, Gore or Clinton’s proposed solutions would have prevented those problems, either.
For all their rhetoric, I seriously doubt a President Gore or President Dean would have gone into Iraq in the first place. I suspect that they would have avoided doing so for precisely the reason that Bush 41 did not go in 1991. To criticize them for nor proposing a solution for a problem that probably has no solution when they would not have created the problem in the first place sounds like a chapter out of Alice in Wonderland.


 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
"A broad coalition means more troops. More troops means more security."

We had and still have a broad coalition, the non-participation of the major EU countries is irrelevant to the issue because they could not have contributed significant troops in any case. More troops in the increased numbers that could be expected from France and Germany participating would have only meant the terrorists had more targets, not that every street corner and courtyard was so covered up that the enemy effectively could not operate—that would take the whole hearted support of two or all of Russia, China, and India. A substantial fraction of the Iraqi population would have to have an occupation trooper in their face 24/7 to prevent resistance. The very idea is a non-starter.

Henke plausibly gives Dean too much credit when he says:
"If Dean had only wanted more boots on the ground, he would have said that."
Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Gore said he would have offered "robust support" to internal groups in order to have Saddam overthrown. I’m not sure what Dean would have done, since his stances on Iraq seemed to bend with the political winds.

If we take Gore at his word, though, we still end up with a civil war in Iraq. Cheaper than the Bush administration policy, granted, but it’s hard to see how it ends up better for US security.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Gore said he would have offered "robust support" to internal groups in order to have Saddam overthrown...it’s hard to see how it ends up better for US security.
That approach would totally abandon the outcome to local players. Democracy in the region would not even be a topic of discussion. At least with our military footprint in the area we have the chance to cast some influence over the Iraqi endgame even though the end result is still far from certain.
 
Written By: D
URL: http://
MK wrote:
"For all their rhetoric, I seriously doubt a President Gore or President Dean would have gone into Iraq in the first place."
So MK thinks Gore and Dean were lying, then?
"To criticize them for nor proposing a solution for a problem that probably has no solution when they would not have created the problem in the first place sounds like a chapter out of Alice in Wonderland."
A problem existed in Iraq prior to 1991, and prior to 2003. It’s name was Saddam Hussein. A problem existed in the Islamic world prior to 9/11 and largely still does, the worldview of the people living there predisposes them to support AlQaeda and despair of improving there own lives WRT increasing their

The usual set of policy options exercised by administrations prior to 2001 produced the events of 9/11, therefore they were not wise policies.

Continuations of those policies are virtually all the concrete suggestions either Democrat in question has made, therefore they are not wise.

Henke wrote:

"Cheaper than the Bush administration policy, granted, but it’s hard to see how it ends up better for US security."

And it’s as likely it would end up with MK’s bogeyman of Iran absorbing Iraq as not. There is no improvement with Gore.

D’s comments are perfectly appropos.

Yours, Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
Interesting points, Jon. I don’t really disagree with any of them and I don’t think there is much tension between my post and yours.

I have long maintained that one of the most inexcusable media distortions ever was the depiction of Howard Dean as some sort of anti-war, UN-loving pacifist who opposed the war in Iraq on leftist ideological grounds. As your quotes show, nothing is futher from the truth.

Dean’s opposition to the war was, in its entirety, purely pragmatic and even hawk-ish. He made repeatedly clear that he belives in the concept of unilateral war and even war without UN approval if such a war is necessary to defend U.S. interests. And he even expressly argued that unilateral invasion of Iraq without UN approval might be necessary at some point in the future.

The difference between Dean’s view and the Administration’s was that Dean believed the risks of the war outweighed its benefits as of the time we invaded (he was open to believing invasion would be necessary in the future) because: (a) we had other mechanisms to determine if Saddam had WMDs (inspections); (b) it was far from clear that Saddam had WMDs; (c) the risks of invasion were incalculable, profound, and either unrecognized or concealed by the Administration; and (d) getting bogged down for years in a post-war Iraq would make us more vulnerable to real enemies, such as Al Qaeda, Iran and North Korea.

In other words, his differences with the Administration were not ideological but practical. He foresaw everything the Administration failed to see - the risks of invasion, the difficulty of maintaining a post-invasion peace, the possibility that there were no WMDs, the value in relying on other methods first to determine if the threat was really imminent, and the intrinsic risk of any war that things will sprial out of control.

All of your quotes demonstrate that he took the threat of Saddam very seriously, as he should have, and was prepared to eliminate that threat by any means including unilateral invasion. The evidence just didn’t exist in his view to justify that extreme measure, particularly given that we had other options first which should have been exhausted.

He was right about pretty much everything, and I believe your quotes bolster that case.
 
Written By: Glenn Greenwald
URL: http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com
That approach would totally abandon the outcome to local players. Democracy in the region would not even be a topic of discussion. At least with our military footprint in the area we have the chance to cast some influence over the Iraqi endgame even though the end result is still far from certain.
By doing what? Siding with a "government" where the real power is in the hands of un-elected clerics, who run the militias which - in turn - are the real force in Iraq? A government dominated by Shiites? I guess I am wondering how taking sides with a Shia domainated government that rounds Arab Sunnis up in the middle of the night and tortures and executes them improves our standing in the Middle East.

 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
In any event, more troops probably would have increased security initially — and I think that would have been good — but I see no reason to believe that it would have prevented the sectarian problems from eventually manifesting themselves.
Noah Feldman makes a cogent argument for why lack of security was the direct cause of the sectarian violence.
 
Written By: cllam
URL: http://
The nice thing about being in the position of a Howard Dean, and having a left-leaning media (sorry, Jon) is that you can say whatever you like, and they won’t call you on any of the contradictions. You can say whatever you wish on the spur of the moment, be all things to all people, and generally "bend with the wind" as someone said.

Then your media friends can make you look like a genius by selecting quoting only those utterances that look good in hindsight. Kudos, Jon, for exposing this for the game it is.

It should be obvious to all concerned, no matter of what political persuasion, that Howard Dean is not a very deep thinker. Jon’s quotes demonstrate that nicely.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
"I don’t really disagree with any of them and I don’t think there is much tension between my post and yours."
Then you didn’t read them. Yours makes the Howler into a genius of steady statesmanship, his makes him out to be a hypocritical idiot.
"(a) we had other mechanisms to determine if Saddam had WMDs (inspections)"
None of which worked with the degree of assurance required, besides which functional mechanism to do that would have revealed Saddam wanted WMD and would never cease pursuing them—and by some translations would have shown even his sons thought he had them. Additionally, none of Dean’s idea address the fundamental need to end the sanctions because they were immoral—remember Albright’s statement—that’s a self admitted crime against humanity; and the fact the sanctions could not safely be lifted while Saddam or his heirs were in power.
"(b) it was far from clear that Saddam had WMDs"
On the contrary, according to intelligence which turned out to be wrong, it was clear he did.
"(c) the risks of invasion were incalculable, profound, and either unrecognized or concealed by the Administration"
Nothing in the course of future history as it was then calculated, or now known, it could justify leaving either the sanctions or Saddam in place in Iraq. The extremes of possiblity were discussed, in the media and in the Congress. Protests to the contrary are counterfactual—or beside the point, such as Clinton not even reading the intelligence reports she later b*tched about. Dean shows himself to be so uselessly pragmatic and immoral I do not want him to be President, ever. His supporters in this are also as immoral as he. Buckley is similarly immoral in essentially claiming that peace, democracy, and prosperity are not for the wogs, which he and Dean have essentially said.
"(d) getting bogged down for years in a post-war Iraq would make us more vulnerable to real enemies, such as Al Qaeda, Iran and North Korea"
Not using the troops is what we were doing before, and it got us 9/11. Not actively promoting preace, democracy, and prosperity in the Middle East with tools that can work is what we were doing before, and it got us 9/11. Leaving dictators comfortably in charge of their regimes is what we were doing before, and it got us 9/11. Realpolitik, Mr. Dean, is what we are doing before, and it got us 9/11. AlQaeda can only be ended by starving it, and that can only be done by changing the Islamic worldview, that might be done by going into Iran—but that would have left us vulnerable to Iraq, and in your estimation, North Korea and AlQaeda.

What concrete alternate uses of the troops did Dean propose that any more assured positive outcomes than placing them in Iraq? Would Iran have been better? How? What problems have we had in Iraq that we wouldn’t have in Iran. Pakistan? What local government’s then would have had assurance they can remain intact if they comply with our needs? What support would AlQaeda, Iran, or Syria have failed to provide the insurgents of whatever nation we invaded? Syria? How does that help us where Iraq doesn’t? Saudi Arabia? Please (a) they’ve been dilligent in hunting down AlQaeda, and (b) if we’d invaded, the better part os the Islamic world would have become AlQaeda to attempt to reclaim the Saud peninsula’s holy sites. You’d’ve as soon done better to go into Saudi as to win the support of 1100AD’s Catholic’s by sacking Rome.

Besides Afghanistan which we had well in hand, there was no nation in the Middle East which had both already had afforded us multiple and perfectly above board cassus belli, had any prior history of a cosmopolitan and educated middle class, and which had so recently has as brutal a dictator as any, such that permitting a free and prosperous nation to rise out of its liberation would do more to destroy the worldview on which AlQaeda thrives.

I ask Dean and Greenwald, where better and with what assurance it would be better, where better to send the troops?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
The nice thing about "Being Howard Dean" is your minions roam around accepting and espousing your hindsight as gospel.
 
Written By: Coaster
URL: http://
I have long maintained that one of the most inexcusable media distortions ever was the depiction of Howard Dean as some sort of anti-war, UN-loving pacifist who opposed the war in Iraq on leftist ideological grounds. As your quotes show, nothing is futher from the truth.
During the campaign, I was very critical of the idea that Dean was as much of a raging liberal as he was often painted. In actual practice, he was fairly moderate. His problem was that he surrounded himself with raging leftists, and used their rhetoric. He used them to gain notoriety, and he couldn’t disassociate himself from them when the time came.

So, I don’t think the portrayal of him was entirely unfair. At the least, he participated in painting that picture. But it was un-nuanced, which was a shame.
Dean’s opposition to the war was, in its entirety, purely pragmatic and even hawk-ish.
Indeed. I’ve rarely had a problem with his specific objections to the war, but I don’t think there could be sectarian strife’ was a particularly unique or unmentioned point. I think everyone was aware of this, though opinions clearly differed on how to approach it, what to make of it, etc. Clearly, the administration judged the degree of strife incorrectly, though I’m not sure that Dean’s policy proposals would have done anything to change that.

Ultimately, though, I think you (and Dean) are reaching a cost/benefit conclusion that the war is a net loss even before we can see what the benefit will be. Pointing out that we could’ve continued inspections or that an occupation could be difficult are akin to arguing that all we have to do to solve the North Korean problem is negotiate disarmament. It’s obvious, but hardly insightful; nor does it offer a solution to then-current problems.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
What Steven Donegal Said.
 
Written By: Scott
URL: msn.com

 
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