October 27, 2004

Kerry and the First Gulf War

Joe Biden on why some Democrats, even hawkish Democrats, opposed the first Gulf War:
"We didn't trust the old man," Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, recounted in explaining why even some hawkish Democrats, including former Senators Sam Nunn of Georgia , voted against the first President Bush in 1991. They were worried about where such a war would stop, what would happen in Kuwait, whether the conflict might spill into Iran.

"When it was over," Mr. Biden recalled, "I said, 'Well, we should have voted for it, if we'd known he was going to do it that way.'"
The "we don't trust the man in charge" excuse is probably more valid than commonly thought. After all, if you think the commander-in-chief is incompetent, or mendacious, or planning a broader war, then why would you give that commander-in-chief the authority to go to war? Wouldn't that be wholly irresponsible?

It's also worth noting that the first Gulf War was really quite the radical concept. Thanks to hindsight, the decision to attack Saddam Hussein seems like a no-brainer now -- if anything, most people would remark on how slow we were to respond, and how lucky we were that Saddam stopped short of invading Saudi Arabia before we could prepare a counteroffensive.

But that's hindsight. At the time, military intervention was a fairly unexpected move -- not even Colin Powell, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, thought we'd go to war over Kuwait. We'd never done anything comparable, ever. He wasn't alone—then-Secretary of State James Baker was skeptical too. The pro-war camp consisted mainly of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. But even then, no one knew what would happen, or how far the war would go, or what the price of playing peacekeeper in Iraq would be. You could say that Kerry was on the wrong side history. And he was. Still, this wasn't just some kneejerk reaction out of left field.
-- Brad Plumer 11:55 PM || ||