Still hawkish after all these months

Tom Spencer notes that the ranks of the pro-war liberal bloggers have begun to thin alarmingly. Matthew Yglesias and I may be the only ones left.

It does appear that the Bush crew has managed to make this war as expensive as possible in terms of the other things we need to get done in the world. Their inability to count votes at the UN has eliminated the best chance for the best outcome: a threat to invade, with universal backing, convincing enough to bluff Saddam Hussein out of power, either through voluntary exile or a palace coup. The business of providing what turned out to be fake intelligence to the UN about an Iraqi attempt to buy fissile material from Niger is about as bad as it gets, suggesting a degree either of incompetence or of arrogance that makes the Franco-German position comprehensible.

I expect the Bushies to run the war competently — which is not to rule out the prospect that it will be a lot bloodier, for Iraq and for us, than the happy horses–t being handed out by Rumsfeld’s flacks suggests — but I also expect them to bungle the peace, and to continue to use every step of the process for maximum partisan advantage.

So if Bush were to announce tomorrow that Iraq was going on the back burner until we’d finished dealing with North Korea (in either sense of the phrase “dealing with”) I’d be cheerful. [I won’t crow, guys: that’s a promise.]

All of that said, it looks to me as if we have a choice between fighting Iraq before the Iraqis have fully deployed nuclear and biological weapons, or after. And that still looks to me like an easy choice.

UPDATE So why, I am asked, do I not support a tougher inspections regime, assuming that Iraq would now agree to one? Answer: Because Iraq agreed to disarmament and a tough inspections regime in 1991, and then found a convenient time to run the inspectors out of town on a rail, with France and Russia strongly opposed to actually doing anything about it. If SH is playing a different tune now, it’s because he’s looking down about 250,000 gun barrels. How long are we supposed to keep that army poised to strike? And how long would Iraqi cooperation last once that army stood down?

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: