Wednesday, January 17, 2007

On speaking for oneself

Okay, so Jane Galt was wrong about the war, but, like, the folks who were against the war? Were also wrong. Not because they were against the war, but because, like, the reasons they were against the war? Which I totally don't remember right now, but I know they were wrong. Which is, like, worse?

Unfortunately, one-time Iraq war supporter Kevin Drum, well, doesn't not have her back:
If anti-war liberals were right about the war from the start, how come they don't get more respect? Here's the nickel version of the answer from liberal hawks: It's because they don't deserve it. Sure, the war has gone badly, but not for the reasons the doves warned of.

... I don't know. I know why I turned against the war after initially supporting it (WMD flakiness combined with the mounting evidence that Bush wasn't serious about postwar reconstruction), but I don't know about anyone else. So I can't really play the game. ...

I'm not sure I see it. The fact that Iraq is a clusterfuck doesn't demonstrate that preemptive war is wrong any more than WWII demonstrated that wars using Sherman tanks are right. It's the wrong unit of analysis. After all, Iraq didn't fail because it was preemptive (though that didn't help); it failed either because George Bush is incompetent or because militarized nation building in the 21st century is doomed to failure no matter who does it. Preemption per se had very little to do with it, and the argument against preemptive war, which is as much moral as pragmatic, is pretty much the same today as it was in 2002.

Now, you can argue that non-preemptive wars are more likely to get broad international support, and that this in turn is more likely to lead to success. But this just gets back to Max's original point: does this mean that anti-war liberals think the war would have been OK if only the UN had authorized it?

Maybe so. That actually comes perilously close to my own view. But it's not an argument I've heard much of lately. ...

Kevvy, honey, back away from the broad generalizations with your hands where I can see them. Maybe you supported the war in the beginning, maybe you didn't see this coming, but some of us did. Some of us realized that turning away from Afghanistan to blast the crap out of Iraq with no solid intelligence, no real justification for doing it and no real plan to put it all back together again was a bad idea from the start. The war has gone wrong for exactly the reasons I said, so don't pretend that all anti-war liberals were wrong just because you were wrong to begin with.

I wasn't blogging yet when the war started - I only started in June of 2004 - but here's an excerpt from my very second post:
Liberals see it differently. From our end, we see that the US got bored with Afghanistan and blew off Osama bin Laden so that we could go after someone a little bit sexier. In the process, we decimated global policy, made a mockery of diplomacy, and seriously cheesed off a good number of former allies. Why do we have to adhere to the Geneva Accords and hold off on the torture? Because we have nothing left. We’re clinging desperately to the moral high road like a mountain climber watching that one last piton quiver in the rock wall and hoping to God it’s not going to slip. Not torturing people, not raping people, not threatening people with dogs or with the murder of their families, that is the only thing that we have left. Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda, they don’t have that left. We have it. And that’s all.

Jon Stewart said it in his block rocking commencement address at William & Mary:
But here’s the good news. You fix this thing, you’re the next greatest generation, people. You do this—and I believe you can—you win this war on terror, and Tom Brokaw’s kissing your ass from here to Tikrit, let me tell ya. And even if you don’t, you’re not gonna have much trouble surpassing my generation. If you end up getting your picture taken next to a naked guy pile of enemy prisoners and don’t give the thumbs up you’ve outdid us.

It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.

The fact that the war was unprovoked was only the cherry on top of the what-the-hell-is-George-W.-Bush-thinking cake. As a matter of fact, to me, it was a minor blip, because it was long since apparent that Bush's only real motivation was avenging Daddy, taking out Saddam, and playing the cowboy using any hollow justification necessary.

I don't know why some people saw it and some didn't. Maybe you were trying to give our new-ish president the benefit of the doubt; one of the benefits of my status as a near-completely-unknown blogger is that I'm not obliged to equivocate and make excuses when I smell something hideous. Maybe you were privvy to some intelligence that the rest of us didn't see that gave some credence to Bush's claims; all I saw was that he was campaigning awfully hard to sell a war that he claimed should have been intuitively justified. Maybe you're stupid, and I'm not so much. Maybe I guessed lucky, and you didn't. Dunno. Probably no way to find out at this point.

But here's the reason the anti-war liberals aren't getting respect for being right: Because that would make the pro-war conservatives wrong, and they're not about to admit that. To this day, pro-war pundits are dragging in the big bucks over their wrongness. To this day, the administration continues rewriting history in an Orwellian attempt to erase any evidence of their criminal stupidity, and no one ever gets any closer to admitting fault than "mistakes were made." Showing respect to the anti-war liberals would involve recognizing that their reasons for opposing the war were right, that they're still right, and that this entire war has been built on a shaky Swiss-cheese foundation because of it.

Thing is? I don't particularly care about getting a cookie for opposing the war from the start for the right reasons. What would that accomplish? Okay, I was right. Three years and 3,000 troops ago, that might have meant something. Now that Iraq is well and truly broken, and no one in the administration has any realistic plan to fix it, "being right" doesn't mean much.

What would mean a lot? If the Bush administration would recognize that they're wrong. If they would recognize that they had it wrong from the start, but moreover, that they're really, really bad at this. If they would recognize that there are other people who are far smarter than Bush could ever wish to be and that those people, not our emotionally retarded president, should be defining our foreign policy.

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