I. THE LOGIC OF MOBILIZATION. "Events in Iraq have now reached the final days of decision," the president said in beginning his Monday night de facto declaration of war. The only decision that mattered, however -- that of going to war -- was being made nowhere near Iraq but right in the White House. That is, of course, the logic of preemptive war.
Except it was strikingly clear from the president's own speech that the war is anything but preemptive. Preemption presupposes an imminent threat, and if Iraq actually posed an imminent threat, our government would not be giving Saddam Hussein & Sons a 48-hour advance notice that we were about to attack them. This is, rather, a preventive war, in which the threat from Iraq is something we must gauge in advance.
George W. Bush may believe he has the mandate of heaven for what, as I write, is still the looming war in Iraq, but he's not doing very well on earth. Indeed, he's all but unified the planet in opposition to the notion of a U.S.-led preemptive war.
It is Saturday morning, Jan. 18, and in Washington and San Francisco, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have gathered to protest the president's pending war. In Des Moines, Iowa, hundreds of Democrats are turning out, too -- both to oppose that war, it seems, and begin the process of unseating that president.
Gore is gone, and the race for the Democratic nomination in 2004 is so wide open, says one Democratic pollster, "The plausibility of why-not-me? candidacies has just exploded."
This isn't 1992, when Mario Cuomo's decision not to run failed to prompt any prominent national Democrats who'd been holding back to hop into the race. Running against Bush 43, apparently, is not the deterrent that running against Bush 41 once was. Gephardt, Lieberman, Kerry, Edwards, Dean -- and perhaps Daschle, Dodd and such wild cards as Biden, Hart, Sharpton and Clark -- this is the Democrats' A-list. Truth be told, though, it isn't much of an A-list. In particular, it has only one (former) governor, Howard Dean.
So who you gonna believe, Bob Woodward or Ron Suskind? In Bush at War, Woodward's new behind-the-scenes account of the White House in wartime, mighty battles are waged between the Powellites and the Cheneyistas over the fundamentals of foreign policy. Multilateralists duke it out with unilateralists, leaving the president to choose between, or meld, two distinctly opposed viewpoints of America's proper role in the world.