Dan Froomkin has a story on BTC News and our White House writer, Eric Brewer, in his April 5 “White House Briefing” column in The Washington Post. Aside from providing some very positive coverage of Eric’s White House work—and that’s what it is—Froomkin took Scott McClellan’s response to Eric’s question and Googled the various phrases and sentences to see how many times McClellan had used the same words and phrases prior to Friday. We were so taken with our own image that we didn’t really pay attention to that masterwork until Shawn at The Liquid List noted it.
Say what you will about McClellan (and of course we won’t lest we lose the opportunity to not get more questions answered), he’s consistent.
What Eric asked was whether the Robb-Silberman report on the generally pathetic state of US intelligence on Iraq before the invasion (and Iran and North Korea now) had had any effect on the doctrine of preventive war.
McClellan replied by invoking 9/11 and the earth-moving the Administration would have done had they known it was coming (which was pretty much irrelevant to the question), and added that the costs of doing nothing were just to high to contemplate.
Eric followed up by asking about the costs of doing something based on bad intelligence, which McClellan rightly understood to be about Iraq, and which he answered in such a fashion as to indicate that massive intelligence failures leading to unnecessary preventive wars and the concomitant loss of lives and dollars and credibility was better than not doing anything so long as you could point to something positive (Saddam Hussein is no longer in power) about the exercise.
In other words: “No. Why should it?” Which makes sense, in a way, because the purpose of preventive war is to preclude the possibility of something bad happening—never mind that in this instance the invasion wouldn’t have prevented anything anyway, given our inability to secure the places the banned weapons weren’t—so it doesn’t actually matter if the possibility is real. Either way, in theory, you’ve prevented it. If it wasn’t real, blowing it up will keep it that way. So there’s not much reason to change the policy even if, as Don Rumsfeld might say, there are things you know you don’t know and one of them is whether you really know that the things you do know are true.