Steve Sachs’s critique of Clark

Steve Sachs (via Instapundit) has a thoughtful post in which he compares Wesley Clark’s victory op-ed to his speech some months later criticizing the decision to go to war. He considers, but dismisses, the idea that Clark’s thought might be consistent, though complex. [Scroll down one item for more on that general issue.]

Sachs makes, I think, at least one plain error. He contrasts Clark’s later critique of the haste with which the war was started with his earlier praise for the decision to move on Baghdad in March rather than waiting until more ground troops were in place. But those weren’t at all the same decision.

It’s perfectly consistent to say that the war could and should have been postponed until the fall, but that, having started it in the winter, it was wise to take the enemy capital quickly rather than slowly.

Sachs also thinks it inconsistent for Clark to praise Bush and Blair for boldness and resolve, while criticizing the substance of their decision. He points out that Howard Dean, for example, would never praise Bush for his “resolve.” That’s right, of course. Dean wouldn’t. But that suggests to me merely that Clark is more generous in spirit than Dean, or than the average politician.

Perhaps that’s why Glenn Reynolds finds Clark “a hard guy to pin down.”

Magnanimity, combined with pugnacity, is not a bad thing in a leader. (See under “Churchill, Winston.”)

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com