To End Another War: Richard Holbrooke (Pt 2)

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In the second part Dick Holbrooke and I engage in a certain passive-aggressive head-butting about how disasters happen and who’s accountable for this one.

Mischievously I had wondered if the Clinton intervention in the Balkans had helped set the Iraq trap, with the “high” of zero-casualty air warfare, all the headier without United Nations approval. Holbrooke sees the Iraq war as more nearly a fluke: a “hijacking” of the U.S. government in the rage after 9.11 by “a faction of a faction” on the Republican right. “None of us saw this coming,” Holbrooke says, “and for the simplest of reasons” — that the new President Bush was the son of a World War 2 hero, and president, a coalition builder “who overall loved the world scene, and was pro-U.N.!”

The politician Dick Holbrooke is a “100 percent supporter” of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination on the strength of her White House and Senate experience. I wonder what was the gap in street-tested savvy that let her guard down in the rush to a war authorization in 2002.

Holbrooke defends those Democrats, including himself and senators like John Kerry, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden, who thought they were empowering the president to avoid war. “They weren’t warmongers, they weren’t preemptive warriors,” Holbrooke says. But I ask him why we’re not paying more attention to the politicians and policy types who saw the disaster unfolding and voted against it, who got the Iraq War right.

I am thinking of one former Senator in particular — our fellow visitor at the Watson Institute, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a Republican who fought the war authorization and was defeated for reelection last year by the backlash against President Bush. Dick Holbrooke was well aware that Lincoln Chafee last weekend disaffiliated himself from the Republican party — one man’s “rite of purification,” as I take it. Should Democrats who enabled the war be going through their own public ceremonies of atonement?

Click to listen to Part II (37.7 MB MP3)

Join the genteel head-butting, please, with a comment. We mean to take up the conversation again in October.