OxBlog

Friday, September 13, 2002

# Posted 12:26 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

LET'S PLAY NAME THAT HAWK! I'll give you the quote and you tell me who said it.

1) "We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century...They will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein."

2) "If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow...Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal."

3) "Look, we have exhausted virtually our diplomatic effort to get the Iraqis to comply with their own agreements and with international law. Given that, what other option is there but to force them to do so?"

4) "Saddam Hussein has already used these weapons and has made it clear that he has the intent to continue to try, by virtue of his duplicity and secrecy, to continue to do so. That is a threat to the stability of the Middle East."

Answers: Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton, Tom Daschle and John Kerry. Not in 2002, of course, but in 1998.

The source for these quotes is Stephen Hayes' insightful article in the current issue of The Weekly Standard. Hayes makes the valid point that certain Democrats' hesitation to endorse President Bush's aggressive stance toward Iraq comes off as rather hypocritical. However, Hayes misses a more subtle point that can be taken from the words of Clinton, Daschle and Kerry: Bush's stance on Iraq lacks credibility precisely because Clinton took an equally strong stance and then did nothing about it. This inaction suggested that Clinton never believed his own words in the first place. If one were a European critic of Bush, why would one assume that current talk of an Iraqi threat is any more serious than it was four years ago?

The answer, in short, is September 11th. From that day on, Americans became aware of the need to preempt terrorism. Americans began to recognize that the profligate rhetoric and subsequent inaction of the Clinton administration was a major strategic failure. Now the time has come to take care of business that wasn't taken care of before.

President Bush, however, has failed to present the case against Saddam in such terms. Instead, he has focused on documenting the threat which Iraq would pose if it added a nuclear element to its already extensive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. As such, he has failed to distinguish his own stance from that of Clinton. Until he does, the critics will continue to ask: Why now?
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