Consider the Source


We’ve mostly been getting this in unsigned editorials from The Washington Post but here Sebastian Mallaby puts a name to it:

Likewise on sanctions, Clinton is the only one to insist that sanctions are less a prelude to war than a means of forestalling it. They are more likely to work, moreover, if the military option is looming in the background, which is why bellicose comments from Bush or his vice president don’t prove that war is the preordained strategy. The idea that the threat of war can prevent actual war is the most basic lesson of nuclear doctrine, but it appears to escape the Bush haters.

“Bush haters” is a cheap rhetorical move by which to pre-emptively discredit the notion that one, perhaps, ought not to trust that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will handle murky and complicated situations with skill and moral rectitude. But why shouldn’t one be, in this sense, a “Bush hater” — one who is inclined to expect the worst rather than the best from Bush and Cheney? I’ll say that I don’t find Mallaby’s line of reasoning to be categorically absurd. It’s in the nature of the office of the presidency that one is entrusting a great deal of discretionary authority to its holder and that one is thereby assuming that he or she will be capable of acting in the broad national interest. But this is obviously a defeasible assumption. And what, if not the actual Bush-Cheney record, would defeat it? I wish I could share Mallaby’s certitude that bellicose rhetoric is all part of a clever and well-designed plan to avoid war, but I have no idea where he gets it from.