Some dietary advice for certain warbloggers

Glenn Reynolds replies to my attack on his attack on Wesley Clark’s sanity and patriotism by calling it “overwrought” and denying that he meant what he said.

If he wants to leave it that he considers Clark sane and patriotic, and never intended to say otherwise, I suppose I’m satisfied. Sometime when neither of us is busy he can explain to me the difference between saying “X regards any action taken by the United States that serves American national interests to be evil” and saying “X is unpatriotic.”

But he goes on to add that he questions Clark’s judgment and fitness to be President, still based on his assertion that Clark is one of those who opposes anything that is in the American national interest. But he provides no evidence to back this assertion, for the excellent reason that no such evidence exists.

Reynolds, can’t imagine any reason for opposing the Iraq invasion except for hostility to U.S. national interests, because it’s so blindingly obvious to him that the invasion was a good idea. Clark disagrees.

Clark has given good reasons for thinking that the invasion left us less secure than we would otherwise have been. That wasn’t my judgment at the time, and it’s not my judgment now (though the news from Iraq really, really isn’t looking good) but Clark knows a hell of a lot more about the question than I do (or than Sullivan or Reynolds does).

At least, since experts differ, it’s reasonable to withhold the sort of absolute conviction that is driven to question the motives or sanity of one’s opponents. So whether the position that automatically regards as “evil” any action taken by this country in defense of its own interests ought to be called “unpatriotic” or not, asserting that Wesley Clark holds that position, when his books, his speeches, and his career all demonstrate otherwise, seems to me shameful.

Tom Maguire weighs in, agreeing that Reynolds suggested a lack of patriotism on Clark’s part when he shouldn’t have, but seeming to agree with the Reynolds/Sullivan thesis that Clark is an advocate of what might be called the “America-last” school of foreign policy; Maguire quotes Charles Krauthammer’s description of that school. But here again, Maguire provides no evidence whatever that Clark belongs to that school, other than his opposition to this particular war.

Maguire claims that I misread Sullivan’s claim about Clark’s sanity, which Reynolds endorsed. It wasn’t, in his view, based on the question of whether going after Saddam Hussein meant weakening the drive against al-Qaeda, but on the question of whether the architects of the Iraq war intended it as the first in a series of regime changes.

Clark told Boyer, as he has told others, about a conversation in 2002 when an active-duty general told him that the plan embraced Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Sudan. Boyer characterizes Clark as thinking he discovered “a secret war scheme.”

It is this claim, says Maguire, that led Sullivan to call Clark “Ross Perot-crazy” and Reynolds to agree with Sullivan. But note that the “secret scheme” is Boyer’s phrase, not (even on Boyer’s account) Clark’s. If Clark’s conversation with the general about the seven-country plan took place — and neither Boyer, Sullivan, Reynolds, nor Maguire gives any reason to doubt that it did — then it’s not unreasonable for him to say that the war was sold to the American people under false pretenses.

As Maguire points out, Josh Marshall some time ago laid out the evidence from documents and speeches that something quite sweeping was indeed on the agenda of several of the architects of the Iraq war strategy. Maguire makes fun of Marshall for pretending to have found a conspiracy from documents in plain sight, but there again the crazy-sounding word “conspiracy” is Maguire’s not Marshall’s.

There are people, both inside the administration and outside it but influential in its thinking, who hope and plan that Afghanistan and Iraq turn out to be the first two battles of World War IV. (Now that things haven’t gone so well in Iraq, and in the polls, subsequent battles may have to be postponed for a while, or shelved altogether; we’ll never know what would have happened if the occupation had gone as smoothly as the invasion.) But that’s not what the President told the people when he led them to war. In saying that, Clark is saying nothing that can’t be reasonably supported.

So where’s the craziness? Sullivan asserts that Clark said what was obviously false in claiming that resources were diverted from fighting al-Qaeda to fighting Saddam Hussein, but Sullivan is simply wrong about that.

Here, then, are my challenges to Sullivan, Reynolds, and Maguire:

Provide evidence from Clark’s words or actions that Clark is crazy, or at least that his expressed belief in a long-term multi-country plan for regime change habored by important people around the President is crazy, or take it back.

Provide evidence from Clark’s words or actions that Clark regards as “evil” actions taken by the United States in our national interest, or take that back.

And I urge them to remember Churchill’s maxim that an occastional meal of one’s own words is an important part of a balanced diet.

This isn’t just about Sullivan and Reynolds and Maguire and me. The Boyer hit-piece, and its repetiton and elaboration by Sullivan and Reynolds, are part and parcel of a systematic Republican campaign to “get” Clark, reminiscent of the job Nixon’s people did on Muskie in 1972. We’re likely to see a lot more of it. (And no, before Maguire starts talking about decoder rings again, I don’t mean that any of them takes orders directly from the RNC.)

The people around Bush fear Clark politically precisely because of his unabashed patriotism. The best description I’ve seen of his political stance is that he’s re-inventing what might be called “national-greatness liberalism,” last seen dominating the Democratic Party in the Kennedy Administration.

Those of us who are Democrats and unabashed patriots are of course delighted. Recapturing the Democratic party for the flag, and vice versa, would be good for our country and our party at once.

But those who are Republicans, if they are any kind of patriots at all, ought to welcome this development — which would surely be good for the country, even if bad for their party — rather than trying to destroy the man who promises to bring it about by misrepresenting his views and slandering his character.

Original post here.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: