Clark and Consistency

CLARK AND CONSISTENCY….There has been a minor internet storm recently over some of Wesley Clark’s pronouncements on the war during 2002 and early 2003, but it’s been so ridiculous that I just haven’t had the heart to post about it. The nickel version is that Clark testified before Congress in 2002 that Saddam was a dangerous guy and it was appropriate to put a lot pressure on him. Then after the war was over he wrote an op-ed for the London Times congratulating everyone involved for having fought a brilliant campaign.

(For more on the congressional testimony “controversy,” read Mark Kleiman here and Josh Marshall here and here. Mark discusses the London Times op-ed here.)

Even by normal campaign standards this little teapot tempest is almost Kafka-esque. It’s painfully obvious that Clark could have agreed with the idea of passing the September war resolution as a way of pressuring Saddam, but that six months later he believed that the pressure was working and we shouldn’t have gone to war. This, in turn, is also consistent with a belief that once we went to war he really wanted to see us win.

(What’s more, this is consistent with everything we know about Clark. He’s obviously no pacifist, but equally obviously he believes in multilateral military action used as a last resort. And he believes that once you’ve decided to fight, you fight to win. This is exactly how the Kosovo campaign went down.)

But the part I don’t understand is why conservatives are crowing over this. Are they under the impression that having a moderate position on the war is an electoral loser? It seems just the opposite to me, even among Democrats.

But Mark brings up another point that I think is equally important: what this shows is simply that Clark has some intellectual integrity. He’s willing to acknowledge that there are good arguments even for positions he opposes. Frankly, we could use more of that instead of the scorched earth tactics in which every possible argument from your opposites is deemed both absurd and fraudulent.

On balance, I support affirmative action even though I acknowledge that it has some ill effects. I just happen to think that the good outweighs the bad. Does that make me inconsistent? I hope not. And neither is Clark.