Thursday, January 15, 2004

Clark and the War

Wesley Clark's main problem is that during the runup to and in the early stages of the war in Iraq, he wore many hats. He was a private citizen, a CNN war analyst , a former general, etc... Josh Marshall is right that he's getting unfairly drudged, but on the other hand I think it's a bit much for him to claim to be an "anti-war candidate." Of course, arguably Dean wasn't necessarily as "anti-war" as he now claims either, but he came around to that point, and started saying it loudly, a bit earlier.

It's clear that Clark was pretty dubious about the whole thing from the beginning, and he also said as much many times. On the other hand, he wasn't being particularly vocal about it in a simple way. He didn't say loudly and clearly "we should not go to war at this time," and make his position known.

If you think Clark isn't the kind of guy who would have brought us into Iraq under those circumstances you're right. On the other hand, one can't credit him for standing up and making that crystal clear at the time either. He was a CNN war analyst, and wasn't really able (by his choice) to do so.

I don't think it matters much, really, and the battle to have the best anti-war street cred is sort of silly. Everyone, including myself, had somewhat evolving opinions as new information came in. I wasn't actually in knee-jerk opposition myself, though I came around to that conclusion fairly early. Lots of people thought the war could be the right thing under certain circumstances, and it wasn't clear until the very end precisely what the circumstances of that war would be. Being notionally for it in October and then choosing to be against it in March isn't necessarily a flipflop. Being for the "ideal war" and against the real one is a perfectly fair position.

Dean gets credit for making his position clear and loud relatively early. Whether that's important or not is up to primary voters to decide.

And, hey, if John Kerry wins I'm going to have to retract all the bad things I said about his campaign...