Kevin Drum weighs in on the Drezner-Den Beste-Marshall-Healy debate and, surprisingly, largely agrees with Drezner. He makes a couple of important caveats, though:

First, he cuts Bush too much slack on the “other” reasons for war, namely Saddam’s WMD making him a serious threat to the United States, since this has turned out–so far–to be largely unfounded. Second, I think he gives Bush too much credit for occasionally talking about the “real” reason. He never explicitly did, aside from infrequent and pro forma praise of democracy and freedom.

If it turns out that Bush flatly lied about Saddam’s WMD, that’s inexcusable. But assuming he didn’t, then emphasizing a simple argument like that versus the more complex neocon one isn’t exactly uncommon in politics. Given what we know now–which, admittedly, could change–I can’t get very excited about the proposition that he did anything seriously wrong here.

This sounds about right. Indeed, I argued back in May (and here and here) that I’d have much preferred an emphasis on regime change–which was the original stated goal–rather shifting the focus to WMD to placate the UN.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kevin Drum says:

    Not that surprising, really. I’m mildly against the war now, but I was mildly for it before the case started falling apart in February. I’m moderately hawkish, and I believe that the Middle East poses a very serious challenge to the world.

    This does not mean that I condone serious lying, even if done in a good cause. If uranium turns out to be the only thing that got exaggerated, then no big deal. However, at this point my instinct is that there’s a lot more to it. Total lack of WMD is obviously Exhibit #1.

    A more serious case for war might have taken longer to put together, but in the end might have been more effective. I think Bush’s natural impatience betrayed him on this issue.

    (That’s assuming he buys the whole neocon argument, of course. I don’t think anyone really knows for sure if he does.)