The Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on Robert Gates provided an interesting insight into the mind of a Right Arabist who supported the US invasion of Iraq:
I certainly supported the decision to go into Iraq in 2003, and not just because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction… It was clear that the sanctions were weakening, and I had no doubt in my mind that once the sanctions were removed by the U.N. — and it looked like the French and the Russians and others were moving in that direction — that Saddam, if he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, would move quickly to try and obtain them…
And so once the sanctions were lifted, there was no doubt in my mind that he would strive to get a nuclear weapon. He clearly hadn’t changed his spots in the slightest, and so that’s the reason that I supported the decision to go in…
As clear a statement on the Great Power Rivalry explanation for war in Iraq as I’ve seen.
Why call Gates a Right Arabist? Because of his critique of de-Baathification:
[In terms of] problems that I think were created — the first was the demobilization of the Iraqi army…
I think if we had widely advertised the fact that soldiers who returned to their barracks would continue to be paid, they would have a way to take care of their families, that we wouldn’t have had several hundred thousand people who knew how to use weapons, had weapons and were unemployed, out on the streets.
A third example, I think, was the extreme de-Ba’athification policy, frankly, looking at it from a distance… [We] didn’t really appreciate the fact that every schoolteacher and power plant operator, for the most part in Iraq, had to be a member of the Ba’ath Party to get the job, and that they, in terms of being a threat to our interests or a threat to a democratic Iraq — they weren’t necessarily that, but it was the people at the top of the pyramid that were the problem. And so a few more hundreds of thousands of people were thrown out of work, people who actually knew how to make some things work and who might have had a stake in keeping things together.
No notion here of a regional tilt in the balance of power toward the Iraqi Shia.
Who, then, invited Abdel Aziz al-Hakim to the White House?
Who supports the so-called “80 percent solution“?
Who is tamping down expectations for Wednesday’s Baker-Hamilton report?
With Bolton out, the only Right Zionist is Elliott Abrams. And Abrams doesn’t manage the Iraq portfolio.
Who is left?
As one Wall Street Journal essay inquired, “At a Pivotal Moment, Where is Mr. Cheney?”
[A]bsent from nearly all public discussion… is Mr. Cheney, though he is as closely associated with White House policy on Iraq, the Pentagon, intelligence and other headline post-9/11 security topics as Mr. Bush himself. Since the elections that shifted Washington’s balance of power to responsibility shared with the Democrats, Mr. Cheney has taken a low profile. He joined Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday to meet with visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, as Reuters reports, and made it to the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony Sunday night. His mission to Riyadh last week came at the request of Saudi King Abdullah, who wished to discuss how Iraq was destabilizing the region, the Journal reported. But there was nothing public on Mr. Cheney’s itinerary before, during or after the trip, and that has been his recent MO. He hasn’t withdrawn a pre-election vow that the administration would move “full speed ahead” with its Iraq policy whatever the outcome at the polls. And Mr. Bush doesn’t appear to have publicly addressed Mr. Cheney’s responsibilities since a terse affirmation at a post-election news conference that the vice president would indeed stay on.
It would be difficult to imagine otherwise. Some serious internal administration disputes have come out amid the reams of reportage and dozens of books over the past six years, but Messrs. Bush and Cheney have largely appeared to speak and think as one. Now, as Washington and the rest of the world ponder just how much Mr. Bush is willing to modify his strategy for Iraq, the most illustrative telltale may be Mr. Cheney.
So, what are the telltale signs?
Michael Ledeen is as excited as he has been since 2003.