Wednesday, June 25, 2008
On this day:

One reason I'm fed up with Andrew Sullivan

He puts words in people's mouths.

Here's Sullivan today:
Abe Greenwald puts the neocon case for invading Iraq more candidly than most: it's to "maintain a regional U.S. troop presence" to deter Iran. It would have been great if they'd been a little more candid about that fact in advance, don't you think?
Yeah, and it'd be great if Andrew Sullivan would be a little more accurate in restating the opinions of those with whom he disagrees. Here's Abe Greenwald, from the post Sullivan linked to:
With the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran, and with Iran threatening to deal the U.S. “a strong blow in the mouth,” what kind of message are Democrats sending Tehran by insisting on quickly withdrawing U.S. troops from the region?

Having stood idly by while Iran progressed through step after step in their near-complete quest to obtain nuclear weapons, we now will be telling the mullahs that we will be splitting town when our ally finally opposes them. In today’s New York Sun, Eli Lake compiles some of the “nightmare scenarios” that may be unleashed in response to an Israeli strike...

With this range of attacks (including one on Iraq) on the table, does Barack Obama really see a strategic benefit in passing up the opportunity to maintain a regional U.S. troop presence? If the answer is “yes,” it merely means he’s a disastrously poor strategic thinker. Since the answer is “no,” it means something much worse.
Greenwald clearly did not make the case that Sullivan said he made. That is, he did not claim that the case for invading Iraq in 2003 was to make it possible to "maintain a regional U.S. troop presence" in order to deter Iran. What Greenwald did say is that maintaining a regional U.S. troop presence now - post-invasion - would carry a strategic benefit since it would serve to deter Iranian aggression in the future.

There are two independent positions here: 1) That the U.S. was right to have invaded Iraq in order to depose Saddam Hussein, and 2) that the U.S. should enhance its strategic position with respect to Iran by maintaining a regional troop presence now that the invasion is a fait accompli.

It's plausible to believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, but to also believe that now that we're there, it's in our national security interest to keep forces in Iraq at least temporarily in part to contain the Iranian threat. It's equally plausible to believe that the Iraq invasion was justified, but that the costs of maintaining a ground force in a Muslim Arab nation far outweigh the potential benefits, even given the threat posed by Iran.

Based on Greenwald's post, I have no idea whether he believes that the primary case for invading Iraq was to put troops there to deter Iran, and neither does Andrew Sullivan. Unfortunately, this sort of disingenuousness has become his signature talent, and that's too bad.