Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ignatieff and Iraq

Michael Ignatieff’s greatest negative in my view is the misjudgement he demonstrated in supporting George Bush’s Iraq war. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote in the New York Times Magazine on January 5, 2003:

Since Sept. 11, it has been about whether the republic can survive in safety at home without imperial policing abroad. Face to face with ''evil empires'' of the past, the republic reluctantly accepted a division of the world based on mutually assured destruction. But now it faces much less stable and reliable opponents -- rogue states like Iraq and North Korea with the potential to supply weapons of mass destruction to a terrorist internationale. Iraq represents the first in a series of struggles to contain the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the first attempt to shut off the potential supply of lethal technologies to a global terrorist network.

Containment rather than war would be the better course, but the Bush administration seems to have concluded that containment has reached its limits -- and the conclusion is not unreasonable. Containment is not designed to stop production of sarin, VX nerve gas, anthrax and nuclear weapons.

I found this sympathetic treatment of Igatieff in The Tyee, which noted that he finally parted company with Bush in 2004:

In a forgotten NY Times Magazine article of March 14, 2004, Ignatieff did withdraw his support for the Bush-led war (as opposed to the war itself), acknowledging he had underestimated the competence of his shipmates, writing "I supported an Administration I didn't trust, believing that the consequences would repay the gamble. Now I realize that intentions do shape consequences.

Liberal Hawks in 2003

However, contrast Ignatieff’s slow recognition of Bush’s ineptitude with that of two liberal bloggers who at one time were sympathetic to Saddam’s removal.

Josh Marshall wrote a pros and cons piece in the Washington Monthly in September 2002 that had this concluding paragraph:

It's difficult to imagine that the establishment and national security bureaucracies would have brought us to our current and correct focus on Iraq. But it's even more clear that the hawks' record of breezy planning, reckless prediction, and indifferent fidelity to the truth makes them unfit to be the ones in control of how the job gets done. The hawks have a vision. But as the folks in uniform are so fond of saying, "Hope is not a plan." Getting rid of Saddam really is necessary. But it has to be done right. So, Mr. President, when the time comes for you to make a decision about Iraq, talk with Paul Wolfowitz and let him tell you what the goal should be. Escort him to the door and lock it behind you. Then sit down for a serious talk with Colin Powell.

Of course the problem was that this is the opposite of what Bush was doing, which was eventually plain for all to see. Eventually, Marshall concluded on March 9, 2003 that Bush’s course towards war should not be pursued. Kevin Drum came to a similar conclusion on the same day. So why was Ignatieff unable to see what was happening and that the incompetent neo-cons ruled the roost? Clearly, the evidence was available. He says he believed “the consequences would repay the gamble”. If this is the sort of convoluted gibberish he spouts when recanting his position on Iraq what should we expect of him as Liberal leader or Prime Minister? He clearly does not have the judgment needed for the position.

His lack of political experience also continues to show. A young Liberal attending an Ignatieff event commented: However, he needs to stop saying things that will make horrible media quotes. I will not write the example here, but trust me that it was much worse than herding cats.

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