Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A quibble with Victor Davis Hanson: Saddam, not US, cause of Gulf War I

Let me stipulate upfront that anything written by Victor Davis Hanson, plugged by Betsy Newmark and called a must-read by Hugh Hewitt is typically an article I'll wholeheartedly support.

Hanson's latest, "The Iraqi Wars: Our 15-year conflict with Iraq," contains his typically shrewd perspective. But it also contains a line with which I take exception: Hanson writes that the First Iraqi war in 1991 was
a response to years of appeasement of Iraq, American mixed signals during the Iran-Iraq War, and clumsy diplomacy.

The First Iraqi War was the US's response to a power-hungry dictator's attack on a sovereign nation for the purposes of increasing his oil supply and setting himself up better to face Saudi Arabia. I do not quibble with the statements that the US engaged in clumsy diplomacy, appeased Saddam and sent mixed signals. Nor do I deny that these may have helped embolden Saddam. But it was Saddam's troops, not US diplomats, who invaded and occupied Kuwait.

Remember earlier this year when radical Islamists caused riots on the heels of some shoddy Newsweek reporting? It was the radical Islamists, not Newsweek journalists, who were to blame for the resulting death and mayhem.

And in 1991 Saddam invaded Kuwait on the heals of some clumsy diplomacy. But in 1991, as in 2005, it was Saddam who was to blame for the resulting death and mayhem.

Here is what I wrote in the wake of the Newsweek story:

After 9/11, some pundits distastefully and inaccurately tried to blame the atrocities on American behavior and policy: What did we do that made those people mad, and how can we stop doing it in the future? Those pundits were wrong.

Those who put the blame for the recent deaths on Newsweek are just as wrong.

The issues are separate in fact and in import: To the degree that Newsweek is broken, it must be fixed in the interests of good journalism and a properly informed public. To the degree that Islamist extremism is causing death and mayhem, it must be eliminated in the interests of national and global security.

It has some relevance today.