One of the biggest claims against the modern Left (as embodied primarily by the Democratic Party) is that on foreign policy they’re just not serious. Oliver Willis has provided a classic example. He cites an article from ABC News about an alledged offer of peace terms just before the invasion of Iraq. Willis takes this offer at face value and treats it as a heavy condemnation of President Bush for leading America to war “because we feel like it”. Here’s the key quote
Hage said Habbush repeated public denials by the regime that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but offered to allow several thousand U.S. agents or scientists free rein in the country to carry out inspections. “Based on my meeting with his man,” said Hage, “I think an effort was there to avert war. They were prepared to meet with high-ranking U.S. officials.”
Hage said Habbush also offered U.N.-supervised free elections, oil concessions to U.S. companies and was prepared to turn over a top al Qaeda terrorist, Abdul Rahman Yasin, who Haboush said had been in Iraqi custody since 1994.
Hage is Imad Hage, the president of the American Underwriters Group insurance company and Habbush is the Iraq Ba’ath Chief of Intelligence. There are a lot of implausibles here, all of which Willis blithely ignores.
The biggest one is, if this offer were legitimate, why didn’t the Ba’ath just do it? Why negotiate? Why not just publically declare that free elections would be held? That would seem to have been a far better plan for preventing the invasion if that was really on the table.
Why did the Ba’ath spend all that time and effort thwarting UN inspectors (and complaining about the presence of US scientists in the group!) if they were willing to allow “thousands of US agents free reign”? And again, why not announce that publically? That would have been devastating politically to Bush. It was, in fact, the Ba’ath intrasegience that made the case for the invasion. Why engage in these secret negotiations when a public announcement would have been far more effective?
Or one could consider how likely it is that the Ba’ath would have honored the agreement. They had never done so in the past, why should this time be any different? Wasn’t the run up to the war about the Ba’ath failure to obey its ceasefire terms and UN resolutions it had agreed to previously? Yet Willis expects to believe, a priori, that this time the Ba’ath meant what they said.
Yet another issue is that the Ba’ath had used promises of agreements and negotiations to stall and delay fufillment of previous obligations for over a decade. What evidence is there that this wasn’t more of the same? Wasn’t twelve years of that enough?
Ultimately, the unserious nature of this kind of thing is that Willis is ready to believe the Chief of Intelligence (and the dictator) of one of the most brutal, oppressive regimes on the planet, who has a long history of agression and duplicity without hesitation if it scores him some minor political points. That’s just not serious and casts some doubt on Willis’ claims that he takes this matter of war seriously at all.