Understanding the Rational Hawk

Talk to any rational hawk these days and you’re likely to hear three main points:

1. Aside from the main issue of whether war is just, the Bush administration’s strategy for selling the war at home and abroad has been an absolute disaster. Richard Cohen, who makes the best case thus far for forcing disarmament, summed it up nicely:

I grant you that in the run-up to this war, the Bush administration has slipped, stumbled and fallen on its face. It has advanced untenable, unproven arguments. It has oscillated from disarmament to regime change to bringing democracy to the Arab world. It has linked Hussein with al Qaeda when no such link has been established. It has warned of an imminent Iraqi nuclear program when, it seems, that’s not the case. And it has managed, in a tour de force of inept diplomacy, to alienate much of the world, including some of our traditional allies.

2. Despite bungling its “case” for war, the United States has little choice in this post-9/11 world but to insist on full disarmament. Not containment, not deterrance, but disarmament. As stated by Bill Keller, the man who should have been Editor of the New York Times:

We reluctant hawks may disagree among ourselves about the most compelling logic for war — protecting America, relieving oppressed Iraqis or reforming the Middle East — but we generally agree that the logic for standing pat does not hold. Much as we might wish the administration had orchestrated events so the inspectors had a year instead of three months, much as we deplore the arrogance and binary moralism, much as we worry about all the things that could go wrong, we are hard pressed to see an alternative that is not built on wishful thinking.

3. Efforts to peacefully achieve real disarmament have failed. It will not be achieved by giving inspectors “more time” to be deceived by Saddam Hussein, nor by tripling or quadrupling their numbers. As John McCain stated today, Hussein has repeatedly shown that the only way he will be disarmed is by force:

The main contention is that we have not exhausted all nonviolent means to encourage Iraq’s disarmament. They have a point, if to not exhaust means that America will not tolerate the failure of nonviolent means indefinitely. After 12 years of economic sanctions, two different arms-inspection forces, several Security Council resolutions and, now, with more than 200,000 American and British troops at his doorstep, Saddam Hussein still refuses to give up his weapons of mass destruction. Only an obdurate refusal to face unpleasant facts — in this case, that a tyrant who survives only by the constant use of violence is not going to be coerced into good behavior by nonviolent means — could allow one to believe that we have rushed to war.

The bottom line: Yes, the administration’s strident, arrogant, unilateralist and religious rhetoric has already damaged the war effort and left us without valuable allies. But if you still believe, as I do, that Iraq must be disarmed, then barring some onforseen sea change within the next week, it has become clear that war will be the only means to achieve it.

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