While the premise―Bush's lack of a mandate on the Iraq War―is reasonable enough, the op-ed piece went downhill soon after the byline. Elving's theory, no doubt taught to impressionable young minds when he was a professor at Georgetown's Graduate Public Policy Institute, is that "the scope of [a president's] plans must be matched by the breadth of [his] support.
Elving calls this the Rule of Proportionate Mandate. i cannot find any mention of such a rule in my own library, but never mind. It seems reasonable when applied to republics such as ours. That is, as long as one ignores the historical exceptions to the so-called rule. The plans of Lincoln, FDR, Truman and even Churchill are the most obvious examples.
But this quote here is a real doozie:
Before invading Iraq, the administration of President Bush needed the broad backing of three constituencies: the Iraqi people, the international community and the American public. In each case, the administration heard just enough of what it wanted to hear to conclude it had sufficient support. In each case, it was wrong. [emphasis added]i love Elving's new take on Kerry's "Global Test" doctrine. Did you catch it? Not only should America have the support of certain foreign powers before acting in its self-interest, but America should also have the support of its enemies before going to war!
Wow. This guy was teaching graduate students? In D.C. no less. That's scary.
Elving goes on to re-state the tired old canard that the "Coalition of the Willing" was really a disguise for unilateral action. Never mind the much debated question of whether the over 48 countries who initially signed on to help us were "window dressing" or not. Since when has the commander-in-chief been prohibited from exercising the war powers unilaterally? There is no such requirement in Constitutional law or history. Let's be clear. A president has never been required to seek "the broad backing of the international community." That's complete hogwash. i'll agree that international support is nice to have, but true leadership does not find it necessary before acting.
Then Elving says that support for the war has never been an overwhelming majority such "as in the case of Pearl Harbor or the invasion of Afghanistan." Again, hogwash. In January 2004, for example, 65% of Americans polled by the Pew Research Center thought that the war in Iraq was the "right decision," versus only 30% who thought it was the "wrong decision." Note that support for the war continued to lead by 20 points or more even when Bush's approval rating dipped below his disapproval rating a few months later, according to Pew.
Elving might rightly point out that previous support for the war has eroded today,* but for him to say that it never existed is a lie, and he should know better.
[cross-posted at annika's journal]
* In my opinion, this is thanks to a combination of consistent media negativity and consistently inept public relations at the White House.