Monday, March 10, 2003

David Brooks

David Brooks has served as a reporter for the Washington Times, and op-ed editor for The Wall Street Journal, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard from its inception, a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly, and a commentator on NPR and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Brooks also writes articles and makes television appearances as a commentator on various trends in pop culture. Before the Iraq War, Brooks argued forcefully on moral grounds for American military intervention, echoing the belief of neoconservative commentators and political figures that American and British forces would be welcomed as liberators.

Ten days before Bush’s invasion, Brooks wrote in the The Weekly Standard (10-Mar-03):
The American commentariat is gravely concerned. Over the past week, George W. Bush has shown a disturbing tendency not to waffle when it comes to Iraq. There has been an appalling clarity and coherence to his position. There has been a reckless tendency not to be murky, hesitant, or evasive. Naturally questions are being raised about President Bush’s leadership skills.

Meanwhile, among the smart set, Hamlet-like indecision has become the intellectual fashion. The Liberal columnist, E. J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post that he is uncomfortable with the pro- and anti-war camps. He praised the doubters and raised his colors on behalf of ‘heroic ambivalence’. The New York Times, venturing deep into the territory of self-parody, ran a full page editorial calling for ‘still more discussion’ on whether or not to go to war.

In certain circles, it is not only important what opinion you hold, but how you hold it. It is important to be seen dancing with complexity, sliding among shades of gray. Any poor rube can come to a simple conclusion – that President Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed – but the refined ratiocinators want to be seen luxuriating amid the difficulties, donning the jewels of nuance, even to the point of self-paralysis.

But those who actually have to lead and protect, and actually have to build one step on another, have to bring some questions to a close. Bush gave Saddam time to disarm. Saddam did not. Hence the issue of whether to disarm him forcibly is settled. The French and the Germans and the domestic critics may keep debating, which is their luxury, but the people who actually make the decisions have moved on to more practical concerns ….
Two weeks later in the Weekly Standard, after the invasion, Brooks published more of the same:
The president has remained resolute. Momentum to liberate Iraq continues to build. The situation has clarified, and history will allow clear judgments about which leaders and which institutions were up to the challenge posed by Saddam and which were not.

Over the past 12 years, the United States has sought to disarm or depose Saddam - more forcibly since September 11 than before. Throughout that time, France and Russia have sought to undermine sanctions and fend off the ousting of Saddam. They opposed Clinton's efforts to bombe Saddam, just as they opposed Bush's push for regime change. Through the fog and verbiage, that is the essential confrontation. Events will show who was right, George W. Bush or Jacques Chirac.

What matters and what ultimately sprang the U.N. trap, is American resolve. The Administration simply wouldn't let up. It didn't matter how much Hans Blix muddied the waters with his reports on this or that weapons system. Under the U.N. resolutions, it was up Saddam to disarm, administrative officials repeated ad nauseam, and he wasn't doing it. It was and is sheer relentlessness that has driven us to where we are today.

Which is ironic. We are in this situation because the first Bush administration was not relentless in its pursuit of Saddam Hussein. That is the mistake this Bush administration will not repeat.
Three days and three years after Brooks published that, the Weekly Standard had second thoughts:
Many who supported the parade invasion have taken this anniversary to argue that it all would have been worthwhile if things had been run better …. We doubt it. The last three years have shown how little our national leaders understood Iraq, and have reminded us how badly attempts at liberation from the outside have gone in the past. Given where we are now, the question of whether a botched invasion created a lost opportunity might be moot .....
And the Weekly Standard joined the revisionist wing of the NeoCon's war party, blaming the whole thing on Rumsfeld.