Sunday, August 27, 2006

# Posted 1:37 PM by Taylor Owen  

THE 'INCOMPETENCE DODGE' REVISITED: Two quick points on what I have always thought was a good observation, first made by Yglesias and Rosenfeld nearly a year ago now.

First, the point that initial supporters of the war are more likely to place blame for the current predicament on the war’s conduct rather than on a revision of the first principle, is more true now than ever. This of course, applies to the war’s supporters in both parties. On the Democratic side, this has always been the means for recalcitrant hawks, such as Hillary, to appease an element of the base while not having to take back their vote. With primaries approaching, however, we are beginning to see the same from more and more moderate Republicans, with McCain notably tacking this way this week.

Second, Yglesias applies the same argument to recent critiques of Ehud Olmert:

In this instance, I think the case against the "incompetence" theory is even clearer. Lots of people around the world suggested that Israel's campaign was ill-advised. And, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely none of us who said that made any reference to Olmert's competence or lack thereof in framing our critiques. Then the war turned out more-or-less exactly as the skeptics predicted . . . skeptics who had nothing to draw on but a general analysis of the situation.

Going back to the case of Iraq, I have no problem with first principle supporters/congressional-vote-casters either criticizing the conduct of the war and/or revoking their initial support for it. However, these two should not be conflated as they are decisively not one and the same. While one places the blame on either a political opponent or a politically inconvenient administration (depending on party of origin), the other concedes that the mission, as defined, may not have been feasible in the first place. These are quite different arguments. The latter argument then has two subsets. Those that thought it could not be done by anyone using any tools, and those that simply believed that it could likely not be done by this administration given it's particular world view and desired toolbox. While the former are made up mostly of Realists, the latter are liberal internationalists and/or interventionists. While the majority of both were against Iraq, on future interventions they will likely part ways.

(5) opinions -- Add your opinion

"Beginning to see the same from more and more moderate Republicans, with McCain notably tacking this way this week."

"Beginning?" McCain has been bashing Rumsfeld from the get go. Same is true of Kristol & Kagan at the Weekly Standard.

"Incompetence" isn't a dodge that critics came up with once elections started drawing closer.
I completely agree, re McCain. 'Incompetence' is however the vehicle with which many have criticized a war they initially supported without having to take personal responsibility for the things that have gone wrong. I also strongly suspect that there will be an upswing of such republican critiques of the administration in the next two months. We'll see though...
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