Money, Mouth

by Henry Farrell on August 22, 2005

As Kieran “says”:, Chuck Hagel is now talking bluntly about the Iraq quagmire. But as Matt Yglesias has noted many times, prominent Republican legislators who are unhappy about administration policy have been all talk and no action. What could Republican dissenters in the Senate be doing? Let’s ask “Hagel himself”: :

bq. More than thirty years ago, the former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright, held hearings on Vietnam that raised critical questions about U.S. policy. Fulbright received criticism for holding public hearings on Vietnam, especially with a President of his own party in office. Fulbright later wrote that he held those hearings, “in the hope of helping to shape a true consensus in the long run, even at the cost of dispelling the image of a false one in the short run.” Today we must not be party to a false consensus on Iraq or any other foreign policy issue.

Hagel drew this analogy back in January of this year; he hasn’t done much about it since. While he and his colleagues have asked a few sharpish questions of generals and others, they haven’t cared to demand the kind of “concerted examination”: of the conduct of the war (and whether the US should withdraw) that Fulbright instigated. Hagel is an influential member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee; if he demanded proper hearings it could have consequences. Time for him to put up, or shut up.

Update: “Mark Leon Goldberg”: has similar thoughts.

Update 2: modified slightly following comments.



David T. Beito 08.22.05 at 5:17 pm

This isn’t quite right. Ron Paul (Republican of Texas) in the U.S. House has opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and recently co-sponsored a pro-withdrawal resolution along with Walter “French Fry” Jones (Republican of North Carolina).

Unlike his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Paul has been a consistent (almost lone) opponent of quagmires. He strongly opposed Clinton’s Kosovo war, for example, as well as the various Haiti fiascos.


Henry 08.22.05 at 6:01 pm

David – fair enough – have modified the post to say “prominent” Republican legislators. I would disagree with the claim though that the Kosovo action resulted in a “quagmire” – the end-result, while not pretty, has contained what could very easily have been a maelstrom of instability in S-E Europe (viz. worries over FYROM and Albania etc).


David T. Beito 08.22.05 at 7:15 pm

Contained at what cost? An ethnic cleansing has been underway since the end of the war and more than 600 Serb churches have been destroyed. Also, of course, if NATO troops were withdrawn both Bosnia (which is even more artificial than Iraq) and Kosovo (via renewed Albanian and Serb clashes) would degenerate into chaos.


Wolfgang 08.22.05 at 8:32 pm

I would just like to mention that comparisons between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq are somewhat flawed.
The reason for the Vietnam war was always clear and maintained until the bitter end, while the rationale for the Iraq war changed several times.


Sven 08.22.05 at 11:56 pm

The reason for the Vietnam war was always clear and maintained until the bitter end

Forgive me if my sarcasm detector is on the fritz.


1. US aims:
• 70% — To avoid a humiliating US defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor).
• 20%– To keep SVN (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.
• 10%– To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life.
• ALSO– To emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used.
• NOT– To “help a friend,” although it would be hard to stay in if asked out.


Zumbercanin 08.23.05 at 1:26 am

It’s always fun to read about the disaster that Kosovo is today, without reference to the nature of the disaster that awaited Kosovo in 1999. Today’s not perfect, but without intervention the picture would be exponentially worse.

And, you know what? Sometimes history does bite you in the ass. Ask Serbs (Bosnia, Kosovo) today, Americans (Iraq) tomorrow.


abb1 08.23.05 at 2:01 am

Comparing Mr. Hagel with Senator Fulbright? Yi-eah, right.


jonst 08.23.05 at 6:30 am


The rationale DID change for our forces being in Vietnam. It went from supposedly being in-country to stop an alleged world-wide communist plot (domino theory) to the good old stand-bys of every failed war: 1. our opponents/adversaries will think us weak if we are forced to admit defeat 2. And anyway, look at the noble sacrifice of the soldiers who have died already. The only way to justify their deaths (read, others decisions) is to go on fighting.

And this is where we are now with regards to Iraq. The next step in this familiar farce often is the “decent interval” plan. Just let us get out the door and hope the house holds up till we back the car out of the drive-way and are a mile away from it. If it falls then it has not occurred on our watch. Hence, we are not weak. A second step to the plan…sometimes viable, and sometimes not so viable, is to find a Franco/Pinochet/Shah type to leave in power.



No Preference 08.23.05 at 6:43 am

The reason for the Vietnam war was always clear and maintained until the bitter end

Yes. Clear and incorrect.

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