National Review’s War

Here’s the link to the full text of Neal Freeman’s American Spectator piece on the deliberations of National Review’s board of directors in the run-up to the Iraq invasion and reactions to the Frumpurge.

I have to give The American Spectator some credit; it’s generally pro-war but is the only long-established and non-paleo conservative magazine to give any space at all to antiwar material.

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2 thoughts on “National Review’s War

  1. Tim August 7, 2006 / 4:17 am

    In the first Gulf War, “the WMD argument” probably originated in a serendipitous discovery by the New York Times, thanks to it’s polls, in November 1990. It was only later adopted by the George H.W. Bush administration.

    So argues Christopher Layne in a July 1991 “The Atlantic” article that reads even better today. There is a registration free version of the article here, it’s title is “”Why the Gulf War Was Not in the National Interest”

    Christopher Layne says: ““The Administration apparently discovered the Iraqi nuclear threat when it read the results of a New York Times/CBS poll last November which suggested that of all the reasons offered as justification for fighting Iraq, the only one resonating with the American public was the need to keep Saddam Hussein’s finger off the nuclear trigger. Within days Bush was warning that Iraq was only a few months away from detonating a crude nuclear device and that the United States itself could be imperiled.”

    The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in another 1991 article available here argued that the NYT poll was decisive in the first WMD scare.

    According to the Bulletin : “Two days after a November poll concluded that Americans would support a war in the Persian Gulf if it would keep Iraq from getting the bomb, President Bush suggested that Iraq’s bomb was only months away.”

    The Bulletin in another article (see here) later discussed the results of the air campaign against prospective Iraqi WMD targets.

    “…Iraq’s “nuclear sites” were prime targets in the early raids by U.S. and allied warplanes. But the effect of air attack on the Iraqi weapons program, such as it was, is highly questionable. The research reactors at Tuwaitha, which may have been destroyed, were unconnected to the bomb program. The highly enriched uranium fuel left over from the Osiraq reactor, or not yet irradiated in the IRT-5000, could easily have been moved before war broke out—as could any key pieces of laboratory equipment. Nuclear scientists and engineers have presumably stayed out of harm’s way. The war may put a damper on any future program by damaging Iraq’s industrial capacity, but the nuclear effort was at such an early stage that there was little to destroy… “

    It’s hard not to conclude that the political lesson from all this is that the general public’s fear of WMDs (however vaguely defined) provides political leaders with a great mechanism to fast track the path to war, bypassing normal popular resistance to interventionism. (Even the left don’t really want to see third world despots with nukes under their belt. Ironically the anti-nuclear weapons’ “nuclear freeze” movement’s lasting legacy might just have been to create a popular launch pad for imperialism!)

    Of course “crying wolf on WMDs” is a dangerous piece of opportunism. Perhaps there is a risk that the US public will eventually cotton on and be unwilling to listen if and when a genuine threat exists. Certainly amongst the electorates and publics outside the US, there is now zero popular willingness, from either left or right, to accept any US claims of WMD threats. This situation will not change whilst George W Bush is in office and perhaps for decades hence. Still in the long term we are all dead and this neat trick has been passed from father to son and , no doubt, other politicians know the lesson too.

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