We have been asked (by David Brooks) to understand that mistakes were made (by lots of important people but also by David Brooks) because it turns out that war is tricky. And when war is waged for example, on behalf of people so crooked that they have to screw their pants on, whose only understanding of the complexities of war come from “Combat” for the Atari 2600, whose grasp of the politics and history of the middle east goes no further than what they remember from the last issue of the ‘warmongers quarterly guide to the world’s largest and least defended oil fields’, what results may not be a Jeffersonian democracy founded in the hope of peace and brotherhood for all. And that despite the fact that mistakes were made (by many people including David Brooks) we should totally be humble (like David Brooks), and forgive people (like David Brooks) trusting that if in some small way things did not turn out exactly as hoped, that we should trust that the very smartest people made these decisions for the best of reasons. And to suggest that this is an innaccurate recap of events is nothing more than mean spirited partisan politics and petty jealousy. Which is why it’s beneath the dignity of America’s most humble pundit (like for example David Brooks) to actually take the time to specifically admit that he happily sang from the same songbook as the Bush administration neocons that purposefully distorted, or invented any intelligence they could to justify the invasion of Iraq.
And this is utter horseshit. The most generous thing one can say about those people who believed we should go to war with Iraq is that they were gullible. All of the other reasons to go to war with Iraq are various shades of bloodthirst or avarice or paranoia or dangerously unrealistic optimisim that Saddam could be removed quickly, relatively bloodlessly and easily replaced with a democratically elected government. David Brooks doesn’t want to admit to any of that. He’s happy to look at opinion polls showing broad support for intervention (after troops were already on the ground), at self serving attempts by the administration to blame the fiasco on bad intel (cooked up to order by Cheney’s pet analysts).
I mean just look at the reaching David Brooks has to do to try and justify his enthusiastic support of the invasion and subsequent occupation:
If you could go back to 1889 and strangle Adolf Hitler in his crib, would you do it?
He’s slipping. That’s the kind of argument we’re accustomed to hearing Jonah Goldberg make. An argument that requires time travel is not a persuasive argument. But it’s all he’s got, because any attempt to update his argument requires integrity. Let’s pick a thing that’s happening right now that could have dangerous consequeses if allowed to continue, for example the Governor Sam Brownbeck or Governor Bobby Jindal’s out and out war on education in Kansas and Louisiana. Public education in those states is and will continue to be a fiasco, turning out thousands or millions of young people without any chance to get into a good university, and making sure that any good university in those states is both privately funded and prohibitively expensive for students that aren’t already rich. It’s not WWII, but it’s bad enough. left unchecked there will be millions of young people in those states who will never have the chance to make a good living, because their government has abdicated its responsibility to educate them. Those young people will start at a tremendous disadvantage and suffer more of the ills of poverty than they would have had to if they got a good education. Some people will have to take more hazardous jobs than they would have otherwise, and some fraction of those will be killed by them. Those states have also done all they can to fight the ACA, and refuse medicaid expansion. More citizens will die from those policies. So, having said that, and proving insofar as it can be ‘proved’ in a blog post that the policies of Governors Brownbeck and Jindal are causing avoidable suffering and death to citizens of those states in order to pander to the basest of their base, would it be ok to kill Governors Brownbeck and Jindal? Absolutely not. Should they be stopped, opposed by every legal means and their administrations examined for any hint of corruption the prosecution of which might slow down their assault on the residents of those states? Absolutely.
But David Brooks can’t get there. He can’t admit that killing people should be the last resort of anyone that claims to call themselves civilized and not the first. Look at this:
After the 1990s, many of us were leaning in the interventionist direction. We’d seen the fall of the apartheid regime, which made South Africa better. We’d seen the fall of communist regimes, which made the Eastern bloc nations better. Many of us thought that, by taking down Saddam Hussein, we could end another evil empire, and gradually open up human development in Iraq and the Arab world.
His example refutes itself in one word: Yugoslavia. Anyone who paid attention in the 1990s saw what happens a deeply divided country ruled by a repressive government led by tyrant dies. People pick up guns and knives and try to settle old scores.
He’s going to try and tell us he’s learned his lesson, though:
Finally, Iraq teaches us to be suspicious of leaders who try to force revolutionary, transformational change. It teaches us to have respect for trimmers, leaders who pay minute attention to context, who try to lead gradual but constant change. It teaches us to honor those who respect the unfathomable complexity of history and who are humble in the face of consequences to their actions that they cannot fully predict or understand.
Nowhere in there does it say, “when we make a predictable mistake, let’s not listen to those people that were cheering for it like fans at a hometown highschool football game any more”. Nowhere does it say, “Let’s start listening to the people who told as many people as they could, as loud as they could, that it was a bad, maybe criminal idea.” Nowhere does it say “let’s start prosecuting the liars and the torturers and chase it down until all of the liars, war profiteers, torturers and other assorted war criminals are behind bars.”