Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bernard Lewis and Iraq

In his forthcoming memoirs, which should make an interesting read regardless of what you think of his politics or scholarship, Bernard Lewis says he actually warned against invading Iraq:
"But it is Lewis's relationship with Vice President Dick Cheney that will most intrigue readers. And on that score, Lewis drops a small bombshell. The war in Iraq, Lewis writes midway through the book's last chapter, is 'sometimes ascribed to my influence with Vice President Cheney. But the reverse is true. I did not recommend it. On the contrary, I opposed it.' "So, wait: The man who more than any other scholar is credited with shaping the Bush administration's view of the Middle East, who wrote widely read op-eds with titles like 'Time for Toppling' in the lead-up to the war, in fact, opposed it?... "In his living room, Lewis seems uninterested in rehashing recent history. He listens patiently, stone-faced. His disagreement with the Bush administration, he explains with a sigh, was not over the goal (regime change), but the tactic (full-scale invasion). Lewis says he argued for recognizing the leadership in northern Iraq as the country's legitimate government and arming those forces if necessary. In the decade since the first Persian Gulf war, he says, Kurds and Arabs had managed to build a nascent democracy under the protection of the no-fly zone. "'That was the way to do it,' he says. 'Simply to invade was the wrong way to do it, and I thought so and said so at the time.' Why didn't he speak out before the invasion? 'I didn't feel at that crucial moment that it was right to take a public stance against the war.'

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