THIS IS TRULY the Groundhog Day war. Everything that happened before and during Desert Storm, we now have to live through again. The same people who lost Desert Storm for us (Scowcroft, Eagleburger, Powell) now make the same arguments against deposing Saddam. And we all have to pay respectful attention. The same prognosticators of doom get to repeat their false predictions, and the bright and the beautiful nod at their sage counsel. If we don't learn from history, we are condemned to repeat it. If we do learn from history, we are condemned to repeat it. We all are condemned to repetition.
Yesterday, I was listening to "The World" which is a left-wing foreign affairs program produced by Public Radio International and which appears on many NPR stations. There was a fawning interview with an American woman living in Pakistan who argued that if the United States goes into Iraq, (A) the Arab Street would explode, (B) the Middle East peace process would be destroyed, (C) a thousand terrorists would arise to replace the ones we topple or kill.
They could have taped that interview 11 years ago. They could have taped it before the war in Afghanistan. They could have taped it before Reagan bombed Libya. And yet there was no hint in the voice of the woman making the remarks or in the voice of the starry-eyed interviewer, that this was anything but the freshest and sagest counsel. This is the real Nile Virus--people developing amnesia about their past false predictions about the Middle East.
And the idea that we should pay attention to the people who took the last invasion of Iraq and turned that military triumph into a stunning political defeat, is simply mind-boggling. But the veterans of Bush I--who should live in ignominy for letting Saddam think the United States doesn't have the guts to take him out, who should hide in disgrace for the way they abandoned the Kurds to their slaughter--instead ride high. It is an amazing example of the establishment's ability to protect their most incompetent members.
The sad thing is, we are only at the beginning of this movie. Tom Daschle and Trent Lott agree that they need to hold weeks of hearings on Iraq. This is a terrible idea. There are some problems that are best evaluated on the basis of the stark truths: Hitler was a monster who dreamed of world domination; the Soviet Union was an evil empire; Saddam Hussein is a megalomaniac thug who has spent the past 15 years as a pariah leader, willing to forego billions of petrodollars, all so that he can get nuclear weapons in order to dominate his region and murder his enemies.
Weeks of congressional hearings won't add much to these essential truths. On the contrary they fog the minds of all who hear them. The debate about Iraq will begin to play off itself. The debaters will get caught in the game of the dueling op-eds, the need to win attention by saying something new. Reality will be lost and we will be smothered by rhetoric, punditry, theory, and speculation.
"One thing is certain--I'm not going to change my view" about the need to remove Saddam Hussein, George Bush told a crowd in Kentucky yesterday.
In the miasma of rhetoric that is to come, I'm not sure all will be as clear-headed.
David Brooks is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.