I think Barack Obama just won the Michael O’Hanlon primary. Everyone’s favorite expert on everything explains that the problem with Obama is that he “seems contemptuous of the motivations of those who supported the war.” Oh dear! We learn that, after all, he “had used chemical weapons against his own defenseless people.”:
Sanctions limited his funds for military programs, but the sanctions were eroding fast in the years before the invasion. Saddam’s links to al Qaeda were overdramatized, but Saddam’s own record of atrocities against his own people, Iranians and Kuwaitis, as well as his support for anti-Israeli terrorists, were heinous enough.
Yet Mr. Obama consistently accuses those who supported the war of political motivations — and unsavory ones at that. On Dec. 27, for example, Mr. Obama said in Des Moines, Iowa, “You can’t fall in line behind the conventional thinking on issues as profound as war and then offer yourself as the leader who is best prepared to chart a new and better course for America.”
Now I think you’ve got to draw a distinction. Given the large number of people who supported the war in some form or another, a viable politician obviously can’t have help for each and every person who did so. But a politician who has contempt for the opinion leaders like O’Hanlon who helped sell the country on the war seems like exactly the sort of person you want in the White House.
From the standpoint of foreign policy doctrine, this has been a frustrating primary to watch. The candidates have debated the main issues of domestic policy at a high level of detail, despite (or perhaps because of) everyone agreeing that they share the same basic approach. On national security issues, it’s always been far less obvious how big or small the disgareements really are. And yet, few broad issues have really been mooted and everyone’s quite vague. Instead of hearing thing straightforwardly, we’re left in the position of trying to assess the contenders’ likely conduct by judging the shadows. But this shadow definitely points in Obama’s favor.