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Friday, February 07, 2003

 

Dean on Iraq: painted into a corner? http://www.tnr.com/etc.mhtml

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, February 07, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
The New Republic deserves credit for kickstarting Dean's meteoric rise in th emedia with their lengthy article "Invisible Man" last July. However, their &c blog has been very harshly critical of Dean recently, based on Dean's position on Iraq.

Recall that Dean had not been directly opposed to war in Iraq, but stated that he felt the President had not fully made a case for war. With Powell's speech to the UN, many have felt that the case for war has now been made. Dean's non-conformity on the Iraq issue made him stand apart from the other candidates, now he is somewhat in a bind. ABC's The Note perfectly describes his quandary:

"Howard Dean, the Vermont governor, said he had not been moved by Mr. Powell's arguments — although Mr. Dean, who has been strongly anti-war until now, made clear that he was not opposed to action to remove Mr. Hussein if it was not in compliance with the United Nations, as opposed to action by the United States alone." "'I'm not convinced: I don't think the case has been made for unilateral action,' he said."
...
As for Dean, has he boxed himself in a bit on Iraq? He has said the United States should go in Iraq in the face of convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Now, with his Democratic rivals all talking about how powerful the evidence is, he is left arguing that the evidence doesn't show that.


The New Republic's &c blog takes this ball and runs with it, making a fairly harsh critique:


According to today's New York Times, Dean emphasized after Powell's speech "that he was not opposed to action to remove Mr. Hussein if [Iraq] was not in compliance with the United Nations, as opposed to action by the United States alone." But the point of Powell's presentation yesterday wasn't to make the case for unilateral action per se. It was to make the case that ... Iraq is not in compliance with the United Nations--exactly the case Dean said he needed to see made.

The gaping hole in Dean's logic is that he assumes (or, more plausibly, pretends) there are only two ways of getting to war: (1) Saddam doesn't comply with the United Nations, and this triggers a multilateral war; or (2) he does comply with the United Nations, in which case we have to go to war unilaterally if we still want to go at all. But an obvious third scenario is that Saddam doesn't comply with the United Nations--and Powell clearly demonstrated yesterday that he hasn't so far--but the countries that make up the United Nations choose to look the other way. Faced with that scenario, it seems that someone who's argued we should go to war if Iraq doesn't comply would have to support a non-U.N.-sanctioned war. And yet Dean says he supports nothing of the kind. The man just isn't serious.


(Their hardline, so at odds with the glowing pro-Dean stance last July, is likely due to teh fact that TNR is notoriously hawkish. They see Dean's support of Israel as hypocritical with his lack of resolve for war against Iraq.)

Still, the question remains, what will Dean do now? Thus far his position is awkward. We will have to see how he handles it in future interviews, because the current soundbites are just not sufficient. I feel his strongest arguments relate to his emphasis that the Iraq issue is not related to the War on Terror, and that we should be pursuing that first as a priority. As reported in the Sacramento Bee, this is the general line Dean seems to be taking:

A dissenting view came from Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who said the Bush administration had yet to make clear the need for immediate, unilateral military action. "Terrorism around the globe is a far greater danger to the United States than Iraq. We are pursuing the wrong war," Dean said.


(UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias also offers a some thoughts)


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.