Joe Klein’s 2003 proclamation that war was probably the right decision combined with his unrelenting hostility to doves makes it a bit hard to believe Klein when he says he’s been opposed to the Iraq War since 2002. Nevertheless, when Al Gore delivered his “coming out” speech against the war in September ’02 Klein seemed to agree with Gore:
And he raised a crucial distinction: A war against Iraq and the war on terrorism are not identical. Indeed, an immediate attack (in January, one assumes) on Saddam Hussein — which everyone expects, and we must hope, will result in a rapid success — could complicate the larger campaign. A successful war against Iraq raises at least three nettlesome questions. . . .
Almost every politician I’ve spoken with — Democrat and Republican — has grave doubts about at least some of the details of the operation that we seem to be hurtling toward. After all, for the past 20 years it has been America’s tacit but obvious policy to keep Saddam Hussein in power, weapons of mass destruction and all, because his removal was likely to destabilize the region. There are Kurds in the north of Iraq, Shiites (a majority of the population) in the south, Sunnis in between; their postwar loyalties and configurations are unpredictable. It is also quite probable that the next government in Iraq will not be perceived by its neighbors as the avatar of democracy and religious tolerance in the region, but as an American client state. The notion that the incipient pummeling of Baghdad will usher in an Islamic Enlightenment is laughable.
Now that said, Klein would hardly be unique if he found himself skeptical about the war in summer/fall 2002 only to be convinced by the administration’s late 2002 PR push and Colin Powell’s infamous 2003 UN speech (there was certainly some point in 2002 when I became very skeptical about the war before becoming re-convinced of its wisdom), but back in September ’02 he was pretty anti-war.