MORE LIBERAL HAWK ANGST….Matt Yglesias has a question, and since Tom Friedman is probably not going to respond I guess I’ll take a crack at it. You can read the whole thing here, but the Reader’s Digest version is this: liberal hawks (like me) have some sympathy with the aims of a war on Iraq but are horrified by Bush’s execution of the plan. Since halting the war would probably hurt Bush domestically and give us an improved chance of electing a better president in 2004, should we go ahead and oppose the war on those grounds?

Matt thinks this is “pretty damn cynical,” and for someone who strongly supported the war it would be. In my case, however, it’s not that hard a question, and not that cynical either. As Kieran Healy points out in another post that Matt links to, the most obvious interpretation of Bush’s recent actions is that he doesn’t really give a damn about promoting democracy in the Middle East, he just wants to invade Iraq, set up some new leadership, and get out. For this reason and a few others, my support for war is now so tenuous as to be almost nonexistent. At the same time, Bush’s domestic policies have become so bizarrely destructive that I can barely stand the thought of letting him spend an additional four years ruining our children’s future.

So if I thought that opposing the war had a chance of hurting Bush’s re-election, it would probably be all the nudge I’d need to actually switch sides and oppose it. I’ve never thought that Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat, so postponing war for a while would have little downside, while getting rid of Bush would have a big upside.

Unfortunately, I don’t buy it. Yes, it’s possible that Tony Blair will end up pulling out of the coalition ? unlikely but possible. However, I have little doubt that the Pentagon has planned for this contigency and can go ahead without British help on the current timetable. What’s more, I’m sure that Karl Rove is well aware of the domestic fallout from failing to invade, so I don’t think anything will stop military action at this point.

However, in practical terms it may be that none of this really affects my position anyway. I’m in favor of war if it has the backing of the UN, and at this point it’s looking very much as if we won’t get it. So in terms of real world scenarios, I may be opposed to war already without even knowing it.

POSTSCRIPT: In case you’re wondering what I mean by “backing of the UN,” my answer is a bit fuzzy, actually. I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

A QUESTION FROM THE AUDIENCE: Yes, you in the back. “Since you’ve pretty much lost faith that Bush has either the vision or the competence to prosecute the war in a way that will accomplish more good than harm, why are you even tenuously supporting it anymore?”

Excellent question, really very insightful. Glad to see you’re paying attention. Are there any other questions?