No Apology Needed
New York Times
Far be it from me to get in the middle of a liberal purge, but would anybody mind if I pointed out that the calls for Hillary Clinton to apologize for her support of the Iraq war are almost entirely bogus?
I mean, have the people calling for her apology actually read the speeches she delivered before the war? Have they read her remarks during the war resolution debate, when she specifically rejected a pre-emptive, unilateral attack on Saddam? Did they read the passages in which she called for a longer U.N. inspections regime and declared, "I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial"?
If they went back and read what Senator Clinton was saying before the war, they'd be surprised, as I was, by her approach. And they'd learn something, as I did, about what kind of president she would make.
The Iraq war debate began in earnest in September 2002. At that point Clinton was saying in public what Colin Powell was saying in private: emphasizing the need to work through the U.N. and build a broad coalition to enforce inspections.
She delivered her Senate resolution speech on Oct. 10. It was Clintonian in character. On the one hand, she rejected the Bush policy of pre-emptive war. On the other hand, she also rejected the view that the international community "should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it." Drawing on the lessons of Bosnia, she said sometimes the world had to act, even if the big powers couldn't agree.
She sought a third way: more U.N. resolutions, more inspections, more diplomacy, with the threat of force reserved as a last resort. She was triangulating, but the Senate resolution offered her a binary choice. She voted yes in order to give Powell bipartisan leverage at the U.N.
This is how she's always explained that vote, and I confess that until now, I've regarded her explanation as a transparent political dodge. Didn't everyone know this was a war resolution? But now, having investigated her public comments, I think diplomatic leverage really was on her mind. I also know, from a third person, that she was spending a lot of time with Powell and wanted to help.
On Nov. 8, 2002, the Security Council passed a unanimous resolution threatening Saddam with "serious consequences" if he didn't disarm.
The next crucial period came in March 2003, as the U.S. battled France over the second Security Council resolution. Clinton's argument at this point was that inspections were working and should be given more time. "It is preferable that we do this in a peaceful manner through coercive inspection," she said on March 3, but went on, "At some point we have to be willing to uphold the United Nations resolutions." Then she added, "This is a very delicate balancing act."
On March 17, Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to disarm or face attack. Clinton tried to be critical of the Bush policy while being deferential to the office of the presidency. She clearly had doubts about Bush's timing, but she kept emphasizing that from her time in the White House, she knew how unhelpful it was for senators to be popping off in public on foreign policy.
At one press event in New York, she nodded when Charles Rangel said Bush had failed at the U.N. But when reporters asked Clinton to repeat what Rangel had just said, she bit her tongue. On March 17, as U.S. troops mobilized, she issued her strongest statement in support of the effort.
Clinton's biggest breach with the liberal wing actually opened up later, in the fall of 2003. Most liberals went into full opposition, wanting to see Bush disgraced. Clinton -- while an early critic of the troop levels, the postwar plans and all the rest -- tried to stay constructive. She wanted to see America and Iraq succeed, even if Bush was not disgraced.
When you look back at Clinton's thinking, you don't see a classic war supporter. You see a person who was trying to seek balance between opposing arguments. You also see a person who deferred to the office of the presidency. You see a person who, as president, would be fox to Bush's hedgehog: who would see problems in their complexities rather than in their essentials; who would elevate procedural concerns over philosophical ones; who would postpone decision points for as long as possible; and who would make distinctions few heed.
Today, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party believes that the world, and Hillary Clinton in particular, owes it an apology. If she apologizes, she'll forfeit her integrity. She will be apologizing for being herself.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
He has amazingly written a pretty nice piece explaining his investigation that turns up the fact she did careful thinking before she voted.
Posted by BJ at 8:57 AM