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November 11, 2003

Bush I on the problems

Daniel Radosh

Bush I on the problems with occupying Iraq: "Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in "mission creep," and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under the circumstances, there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different — and perhaps barren — outcome." -- A World Transformed, by George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft.

I know you've probably gotten this by e-mail already; it's making the rounds. I post it here because I think the unedited version is actually sharper than the excerpt going around, and also to assure you that while it sounds too good to be true, it's not (not too good, that is, not not true), and finally, to give proper credit to the Amazon reviewer who originally dug it up.

Chris Hitchens calls Bush I's comments, "pseudo-realism... it's not as practical or as hard-headed or as prudent as it purports to be." That's right, a description that accurately reflects what's happening in the world is "pseudo-realism." Hitchens idealistic fantasies, of course, are really-real.

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