Expanding on a comment I left on a post at Outside the Beltway, let’s engage in a little thought experiment just for fun. Something I’ve debated almost endlessly with Dan Nexon of The Duck of Minerva is what would have happened had Al Gore been president in 2001. My own view is that, had Al Gore been president, the attacks on 9/11 would still have taken place, we still would have invaded Afghanistan, and we still would have invaded Iraq. Many political postures would be switched with regular Democrats supporting the wars and regular Republicans opposing them, on similar grounds to those on which the isolationist Republicans of 1940 opposed our entry into the war in Europe.
Whatever your opinion please support them with evidence and, if possible, with citations.
I know that there are lots of people who believe that President Gore would have done nothing but consult opinion polls and engage in Hamlet-like indecision. I don’t believe that.
There’s a host of reasons I believe that President Gore would have been just as likely to invade Iraq as President Bush. They include that the idea of Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction was the prevailing wisdom on both sides of the aisle prior to 9/11 and prior to the Bush presidency and that the idea of a Saddam Hussein armed with weapons of mass destruction became intolerable after 9/11; that any president capable of being elected would have wanted to hold on to the job and that would have required some sort of action beyond removing the Taliban from Afghanistan (or even finding Osama Bin Laden; that the troops we had stationed in Saudi Arabia were there to contain Saddam Hussein and represented a form of exposure that was seen as too great subsequent to 9/11; and any number of other reasons.
The argument against it, I think, is that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld functioned as inside salesmen on the idea of invading Iraq and a Gore Administration wouldn’t have had analogues.
Note, by the way, that I’m not saying that either Republicans or Democrats have acted as they have for the last seven years purely out of political considerations. I don’t believe that, either. But I do believe that conviction in the benignity of your fellow partisans has a way of coloring one’s interpretation of the facts.
But I’m interested in your opinions and your arguments. What do you think?
I don’t interpret Al Gore’s September 2002 speech as a rejection of the idea of invading Iraq but as a rejection of an invasion of Iraq by the Bush Administration. I think he actually makes a fairly compelling case for why the Gore Admininstration would have invaded Iraq (he just thinks they’d have done a better job).