Nicholas Lemann in The New Yorker has one of the best analyses of the Bush administration’s war thinking that I’ve read (given how useless The New Yorker website is, I suspect the link will rot in time).
“Washington’s attitude toward the hawks seems to be official disapproval tinged with sneaking admiration. They have an incaution that usually makes holding office impossible, and yet they have gained high-ranking jobs and kept them. Their operational persistence and their intellectual boldness give them disproportionate influence — the origins of just about all of Bush’s doctrinal statements over the last year clearly can be traced to the hawks.”
Dave Winer offers his view from the US: ” I’m in the US. I am against the US going to war with Iraq. Saddam has had chemical and biological weapons for a long time. Nothing new there.”
Yesterday I remarked on what seems to be the absence of open debate in the US over the wisdom of going to war with Iraq. A friend responded by saying, “This is because of censorship or self-censorship in the US media, and fears of programme sponsors. And the sanitising tendency in US media.”
I’m not so sure there is conscious censorship of this nature. What I suspect is equally troubling: that the editors and producers don’t even admit the possibility of alternative views. (Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post has a good summary of coverage of the UN speech.) It also seems to contradict the evidence I pick up from the US. Polls show a majority opposed to unilateral military action, with a majority in favour, provided there is UN endorsement. And although the expressed differences are muted, there are some in Congress who have indicated they are at odds with the administration.
It’s a particularly piquant contrast to the situation here in the UK. Tony Blair has been, on a global scale, president Bush’s strongest supporter. But it’s not winning him many friends at home. Blair is working hard to keep his followers and public opinion behind his line. The House of Commons debate planned for 24 September promises to be a charged event, since a good number of Labour members have come out strongly opposed to military action.
A lot is riding, therefore, on the dossier of evidence the prime minister plans to release. It’s ironic, given the US lead on the issue and the US tradition of comparative openness, that we may well see the most comprehensive case against Saddam issue from London and not Washington.