Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 3, 2006
WAR: There He Goes Again

As I've noted before at exhaustive length (more here), Mark Kleiman seems to be addicted to the habit of demanding that conservative bloggers drop what they are doing and respond to him. Well, he's at it again, this time with a story that's at least two years old: Michael Scheuer's claim that the Bush Administration had Zarqawi and his terrorist camp in its sights in early 2002 and instead waited to deal with him as part of the broader invasion in 2003. Now, I don't know that Scheuer is the most credible source at this point, but assume for the sake of argument that he's right. President Bush is already on record, going back several years, with his skepticism of Bill Clinton's ineffectual pinprick strikes at bin Laden and his camps; it's certainly a sensible military decision to try to roll up the whole of the Iraqi problem at once with an invasion force, rather than lead off with partial and selective air strikes (this is, in fact, a continuing tactical problem in planning what we would do to Iran if it comes to that). Now, sure: in retrospect, we'd rather have gotten Zarqawi personally - not that he wouldn't have been replaced by someone else - but as usual with the Left's second-guessing of military tactics, there's no consideration here of the countervailing costs and benefits of the route not taken.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 AM | War 2006 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)

Crank, it's even worse than that. Giving no thought to the downside of other options is one thing. Their inability to give an alternative approach is a much bigger deal. And if you ask them for one, the tell you that because they are the party out of power, they don't need to come up with something. Childish children. Keep them away from the controls until they give us some adults to deal with.

Posted by: Peder at May 3, 2006 9:19 AM

Let's go to the tape.

I wrote:

"I'd like to hear what the warbloggers have to say about this, other than slime-and-defend. It seems that the Bush Administration in 2002 preferred Abu Musab Zarqawi alive, and an argument for invading Iraq, to Abu Musab Zarqawi dead."

How does this constitute a "demand" that anyone do anything? I pointed out a fact that seems not to fit the idea that George W. Bush and his crew are diligent or competent leaders in the fight against Islamic terrorism, and asked whether their defenders had anyting to say in their defense.

From your response, the answer seems to be "No," since all you do is abuse Bush's critics. The only substantive argument you make is transparently false. Killing Zarqawi in 2002 wouldn't have made it harder to overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2003, other than politically, so it's pointless to argue that overthrowing Saddam was better than killing Zarqawi; we could have done both.

But since you obviously enjoy your bilious rage, I'm happy to have provided the occasion, and hope to provide many more in the future.

Posted by: Mark Kleiman at May 3, 2006 2:46 PM

Leaving aside the fact that taking a shot at Zarqawi would have upset the diplomatic negotiations to assemble a coalition to go to war - which is, in fact, a legitimate concern, and an odd one for a liberal Democrat to pooh-pooh - my substantive point here is a military one: the idea that it is better to wait and corner your adversaries with overhwelming force rather than fire a shot that may give them warning to disperse. In retrospect, we didn't get Zarqawi, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there was nothing to that military analysis.

Anyway, thanks for the reminder of why I don't read your blog anymore (someone who does sent me the link).

Posted by: The Crank at May 3, 2006 2:52 PM

That big coalition that included us, Great Britain and a whole shit load of Pacific Island nations and some Latin American countries? That huge coalition?

Posted by: jim at May 3, 2006 3:36 PM

1. Australia and Poland are not little islands in the Pacific.

2. At the time, there was still hope - albeit, misguided hope - that the coalition would include more members, notably Turkey, which borders what was then the northern no-fly zone. As it turned out, diplomacy in that regard was unsuccessful, and in a few cases (Russia, France, Germany) was doomed to fail due to a combination of anti-American strategy and bribery.

Posted by: The Crank at May 3, 2006 3:42 PM

Kleiman, let me make sure I understand. You contention is that taking out Zarqawi would have made more sense that the actually taking out of 40 something of that infamous deck of cards? Maybe the administration had the opportunity in '02 to take him out, but who was to know that Zarqawi was going to be the force he has been.

With this in mind, I would be very interested to you reaction to the proven fact, as opposed to sepulation, that Bill Clinton was offered OBL on three seperate occassions and turned down all of them? OBL in the late 90's was already a known commodity. What is your justification?

I can't speak for Cranks rage, but I can tell you for sure where mine comes from. It is the politicalization of the safty of our nation and its citizens. As for the slime and defend, when Slick Willie and his wife made that an artform. Conservatives are still playing catchup there.

Posted by: maddirishman at May 3, 2006 3:43 PM


I agree with your implication that diplomacy failed in part because nations such as Germany, France and Russia had *no desire* to help America achieve any kind of hegemony in the Middle East . . . because they had an interest in their own hegemonic designs.

That said, please tell me you're not denying that the hard-ass routine played by Bush, Rumsfeld & company had a lot to do with the "failure" of diplomacy. The adminstration made little effort to assemble a coalition. I have no problem with that aspect of their policy, by the way, but let's stick to the true narrative here, shall we?

Posted by: Mike at May 3, 2006 4:12 PM


Why is "But look what Clinton did!" an adequate response to critiques of the Adminstration?

I can't speak for anyone else, but I think that Clinton & Bush dropped the ball more than they carried it for a big gain in this area of foreign policy.

Let's say that we both agree that Clinton neglected this issue (I think we both do agree on that). Ok. So explain how that has any bearing on the current Adminstration, which has been in charge for 5 years?

I'm not playing partisan here, as I'm not a Democrat. But conservatives/Republicans who continually deflect all criticisms of Bush/GOP, whether with the "Slick Willie Card" or otherwise, lose credibility with every word. Sometimes the best way to defend your position is to question it on occasion. That, to my mind, is perhaps the greatest failing of the 21st Century GOP.

Posted by: Mike at May 3, 2006 4:17 PM

Zarqawi? He was in Iraq in 2002? Who knew Iraq and AQ were holding hands like that?

The coalition was the US, UK, South Korea, Italy, Poland, Romania, Georgia, Japan, Denmark, Australia, El Salvador, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Albania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Canada (deep breath) Bulgaria,Ukrane, Nicaragua, Spain, Honduras, Norway, Dominican Republic, Phillipines, Thailand, Hungary, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, The Netherlands, Moldava, Tonga and Iceland.

Hope I didn't miss any. Yes, a farkin HUGE coalition, larger than the Gulf War I coalition. The only countries missing are, you know, France and Russia. Countries that were, you know, in bed with SH.

Posted by: Dwilkers at May 3, 2006 4:24 PM

While I've made the points that needed to be made about Clinton's failures to act, I think the main relevance of the Clinton example is just to explain why Bush has been wise not to imitate Clinton's policies, which in retrospect were disastrously unsuccessful. Further finger-pointing at this juncture isn't useful.

Posted by: The Crank at May 3, 2006 4:35 PM


Gotcha. That piece you linked to was posted before I started reading your blog, so I haven't read it.

I'll check it out. Thanks.

Posted by: Mike at May 3, 2006 4:42 PM

On the coalition stuff. Please. Look at most of these countries. The few of any significance contributed scantily. This was a coalition in name mostly. When the Iran thing rolls around (if it has not already) it will likely be us and us alone.

Posted by: jim at May 3, 2006 5:09 PM


Maybe not. With Russia and China taking such a transparent interest in exerting their own interests in the Persian Gulf, don't be surprised to see France and Germany suddenly standing next to us.

I mean, who really knows for sure, but the battle lines are different this time.

Posted by: Mike at May 3, 2006 5:21 PM

Not that I am for this administration starting another ill-conceived war, one that would be more likely to start either a nuclear war or WWIII, but I would take some action on this. We are renegades in the world and our actions toward Iran are so blatantly pre-conceived (along with our actions in Iraq being so blatantly made up) that very few if any countries will stand beside us.

Posted by: jim at May 3, 2006 6:31 PM

Mike, believe me, I do not give Republicans a pass. The ball here was dropped way before Clinton. Regan and Bush Sr., as well as Carter are in large part responsible for the current world climate. They allow this movement to gain momentum and spread. My problem is when pot-shots are taken at W for not getting the "big fish" Zarqawi when Clinton passed on the Moby Dick of the big fish.

Posted by: maddirishman at May 3, 2006 7:10 PM

You hear "The adminstration made little effort to assemble a coalition.", you point out it was the biggest coalition since Korea - assembled against the active opposition of the France, Germany and Russia and you get back it doesn't matter because they didn't provide the enough or the right kind of help. What really doesn't matter is what's true about it - no matter what Bush did people are going to bash him on the coalition.

As if that even mattered, since the only countries in the world that have any sort of real army anymore are the US and China. Either they did the diplomatic work or they didn't. Clearly they did. If anyone was going to do it the US had to be the one. People that think we shouldn't have have a fair argument and should stick to that rather than silliness about the coalition.

As far as 'fault' and 'blame' its irrelevant. This conflict has its roots all the way back in the cold war. Its just as true that Truman is at fault as it is about Reagan, or Clinton or anyone else. The Soviets had their tyrants, we had ours. Pointless.

What matters is what we do now. I think Bush has it right that democratic reform, IE changing the culture of the Arab world from one of despotic rule to one of the expressed will of the people, will work. It just looks like its going to be harder and take longer than we might wish. I have no idea what else anyone would want to attempt to do to solve the Islamofacist Terrorism problem. Nuke them all? Build an impenetrable dome over the US?


We have a choice between fighting against them and defending Western Liberal Secular Democracy or having our daughters be forced to wear burkhas and seeing gays and anyone else they don't agree with set on fire. I'm beginning to wonder if the West has the will to defend itself or not.

Posted by: Dwilkers at May 4, 2006 6:03 AM

Dwilkers - You're being a little unfair to the British Army, in particular, as well as the Aussies. They may not have the ability to conduct a large-scale land war as we do, but both still have substantial ability to project force overseas; both were very useful in the Iraq War, as were the Poles. (Of course, your "US and China" list also leaves off the Israelis).

Posted by: The Crank at May 4, 2006 9:41 AM

I've never gotten a firm sense as to why Israel wasn't in the coaliton. Is it like '91, where we made them sit it out, or is it an Israeli choise this time?


Posted by: Mike at May 4, 2006 10:45 AM

Good question. No answers here, but I'd wager much the same as '91, only no one had to be told anything. Goes w/out saying at this point. Israel's a constant target anyway. Having their troops and/or materiel involved would only complicate things. Enough "Zionist occupoiers/invaders" BS flies w/out Israel actually being involved. Why lend it any credence? Plus, IDF has its hands full on a daily basis. Its involvement would have been a plus, but it was hardly necessary to accomplish our mission, and might arguably compromise its mission. On balance, Israel not formally getting involved made/makes sense.

Posted by: seamus at May 4, 2006 11:10 AM
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