In Defense of Krauthammer

Several readers have argued I have misunderstood Charles Krauthammer's recent column. Here's a succinct summary of the main critique:

I do not believe Krauthammer is attempting to re-write history or that he is even trying to sway discussion. His comments are about objectives, not reasons.  I see it as the difference between goals and motivations. They are intrinsically linked, but not the same thing. Would you not agree that the reason we invaded Iraq was the belief that Saddam had WMD's while the objective was, as Krauthammer states, to "depose Saddam Hussein and replace his murderous regime with a self-sustaining, democratic government"?

Another reader makes a similar distinction between "rationales" and "objectives." I wrote that this might just be an oversight by Charles, but I don't buy these readers' argument for a second.

Take them on their own terms: let's say "disarming Saddam" was a "reason" but not an "objective" of the war. It would surely follow nonetheless that if the rationale was a real, rather than invented, one, it would necessitate that a main objective of the invasion would be to find and secure those WMD sites as quickly as possible. In the weeks before Saddam could be deposed, surely these sites and weapons posed a serious risk. So securing them would have to be an "objective" of the war. At the very least, an objective would be to prevent the looting of such sites. And yet, as Woodward's book reveals, and as many other sources now confirm, there was no serious plan for this, and many such sites were indeed looted while the coalition looked on and did nothing.

The objective evidence makes it more plausible now that the WMD argument was not sincerely held by the people planning the military invasion. Or if it was sincerely believed, the incompetence in execution was beyond belief. I say this reluctantly, and it's not something I orginally even considered, let alone believed. But the empirical evidence for the unseriousness of the attempt to find WMDs in the invasion period is overwhelming. And that is why I wonder if Charles is guilty merely of a Freudian slip. Did he never believe the WMD argument either? Was it all a ruse for something else? Was it a "rationale" in the sense that it was not a real reason?