In their continuing coverage of the fallout from the Baker-Hamilton report issued last week, the Washington Post’s Michael Abramowitz and Glenn Kessler yesterday took stock of some of the criticisms that have “burst forth from the leading institutions of the right: the National Review, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Weekly Standard; conservative talk radio; and scholars at some of Washington’s top think tanks.”
It was a worthy subject for an article, and by focusing on what the conservative commentariat had to say — particularly those who appear to have the mostly tin ear of the White House — it serves as something of a primer on how the Bush administration might push back in the days and weeks ahead. But what struck us about the piece was how it was presented as a sober assessment from the “wise men” of the Right. We are, implicitly, expected to take these guys seriously on the subject of Iraq, so as a public service we thought it worthwhile to recall what some of these assembled luminaries have said in the recent past about Iraq. We’ll start with Kenneth R. Weinstein, the chief executive of the Hudson Institute, who the Post quoted as calling some of the report’s recommendations “preposterous, period.”
Perhaps, but consider this gem from February 2003, when Weinstein voiced support for the invasion of Iraq:
From the ashes of Saddam’s dictatorship would arise a pro-American regime, a model of openness and prosperity for the Arab world. Regime change would embolden pro-Western forces throughout the Middle East to act against the forces of darkness, including Iran’s educated middle class who are increasingly embittered by the rule of the mullahs …
(If plenty of less-wise men and women hadn’t been robustly skeptical of such utopian dreams when they were originally proffered, their ranks could rightly be accused of relying on that most accommodating of crutches, in hindsight.)
Weinstein also told the Post this past July that “Given the laundry list of global challenges, the administration has had to make dozens and dozens of tough calls — and overwhelmingly it’s been right.”
The majority of Americans — according to public opinion polls taken since the 2004 elections — would disagree with him on this point, but no matter, if the Post considers him a serious thinker, then we’ll go along for the ride.
Next up is Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a former Reagan administration figure who heads the Center for Security Policy, and who’s definitely no fan of Jim Baker. Gaffney told the Post that “It seems so transparently in keeping with [Baker’s] modus operandi: the quest for the deal without regard for the content or the repercussions.”
What was that about “repercussions,” Mr. Gaffney? From February 2003, looking ahead to the looming invasion:
… you’ll see I think an outpouring of appreciation for their liberation that will make what we saw in Afghanistan recently pale by comparison. You’ll see, moreover, evidence in the files and the bunkers that become available to our military, evidence not only of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction programs and his future ambitions for their use perhaps and for aggression against his neighbors, but also, I would be willing to bet, evidence of his past complicity with acts of terror against the West, perhaps more generally but certainly against the United States which in turn I think will further vindicate the course of action that this president is courageously embarked upon.
Flush with victory after the fall of Saddam’s regime, Gaffney took to the pages of the Washington Times on April 15, 2003 to rattle his saber, asking “Who’s Next in Line?” “The United States and a coalition of the willing should bring to bear whatever techniques are necessary — including military force — to effect behavior modification and/or regime change in Damascus, as well. By so doing, freedom stands to get a two-fer: liberating both Syria and Lebanon.”