The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Sound Bite Culture is No Defense

Giving the public vague snipets of information that does not clearly define policy objectives is no excuse to use when the policies fail or are misunderstood. If the information given is so vague that it can easily be misinterpreted or is demonstrably false, then the politician deserves the criticism even if it is from pundits on the other side of the aisle. The sound bite and the "complicated reason" must always match.

WMDs were not just one of many reasons for the Iraq war, they were the primary reason, and not just for there "ease of sound bite" quality. Saddam Hussein had fewer connections to terror than the House of Saud, the Ayatollahs and many other governments across the globe. The democratic peace theory could never be sold to the American populace, nor could it be sold to the UN Security Council; that is why WMD was moved to the forefront.

Furthermore, not all intelligence within the US Government pointed to WMD. After all, we hadn't been there since 1998, nor did we have any field agents (to the best of available information) in Iraq until the leadup to the war had already begun, and there were many within the CIA that didn't agree with Tenet's "slam dunk" case. The last US inspector we had in Iraq said that there was almost no possibility of Iraq developing WMD since he had left the country.

Also, maybe the reason that Iraq and 9/11 got lumped together is because the President, and Vice President mentioned them together at every opportunity and connected the two through the global war on terror. According to insiders such as Richard Clark and Bob Woodward, the President sought a connection to Iraq immediately following the 9/11 attacks, so he himself must have thought the two were indirectly if not directly related.

If Bush wants America to democratize the world, then we should be straight with the populace and tell them.


  • I don't really think I took a an opposed viewpoint to soundbites. The whole point was that using them was risky, and that the politician who does so will probably pay for it.

    My other point though was more cynical of the American people than of the politician. Sound bites are used for a reason, and the reason is that 30 seconds is as long as most people will pay attention. However, if you're not most people, you should basically ignore the sound bites.

    WMDs the "main argument?" That's not what I heard, and you help my point later on:

    "Also, maybe the reason that Iraq and 9/11 got lumped together is because the President, and Vice President mentioned them together at every opportunity and connected the two through the global war on terror."

    This is the argument for spreading democracy, in a nut shell. That terrorism thrives in these regimes, so they must fall. WMD's were the sound bite issue for two reasons. Because the idea of another possible catastrophe is powerful, and no one doubted that they existed. If they did, they kept silent. Even Hans Blix thought they existed (at least before the war started). Like all sound bites, it plays to emotions, but it was not the primary argument.

    Just because other governments have a higher connection to terrorsim does not make them better candidates for regime change. In fact, it makes them worse. Iran, which may have been nuclear (and probably is right now) would have been difficult to take on, and enjoyed widespread support from other Muslim nations. Not so with Iraq due to the internal opressed Shiite majority and the Kurds, there was no great love of Hussein. North Korea will probably launch everything they have if attacked. They are a cornered wild animal. Military action against them right now would be disaterous.

    Iraq was a good candidate, and they did have ties to many terrorist organizations. That their may have been better candidates is itself a bit of a strawman. The important question is whether or not Iraq was strategically important.

    Finally, while Richard Clark is an insider, Bob Woodward most certainly is not. Both have axes to grind, and Iraq has been an issue for 15 years. It makes sense to have an Iraq policy in place, and Clark's argument basically states that Bush was exploring Iraq policies. Big deal.

    He should have been straight with the American people and told them. I think it would have worked poltiically. Instead he tried to play politics and left ammo for his opposition. It was stupid to do so.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:37 AM  

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