Shifting rationales

I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many times over the past six months or so I’ve received an email with some variation on the theme: don’t you understand that Saddam has Weapons of Mass Destruction?

But as Robert Novak (yes, that Robert Novak) writes:

The real reason for attacking the Iraqi regime always has been disconnected from its public rationale. On the day after the U.S. launched the military strike that quickly liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, my column identified Iraq as the second target in President Bush’s war against terrorism. I did not write one word about weapons of mass destruction because not one such word was mentioned to me in many interviews with Bush policymakers.

Now, so far they haven’t found any WMDs (caveat: at least significant ones, that I’ve heard about), which is, of course, why this war has gradually shifted from being About the Weapons of Mass Destruction to being About the Liberation of Iraq. And apparently it’s been a successful rebranding:

A growing majority of Americans believe the war in Iraq is justified even if the United States does not find weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, public optimism about the progress of the fighting has surged as recent gains on the battlefield have eased fears that the allies will become bogged down in a long and costly war, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

It’s entirely possible that WMDs will still turn up in Iraq. In which case, the Coalition of the Shilling will undoubtedly stretch a few muscles patting themselves on the back. But handily enough, even if they aren’t — even if the primary justification for this war turns out to have been a lie — well, they’ll still be patting themselves on the back.

(edited slightly for clarity)

(Update) WMDs apparently found. Let the backpatting begin.

(Update2) Or…maybe not..