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Liberal Hawks Learn Nothing


The New Republic has a symposium that includes a depressing number of liberal hawks giving non-apologies. I’ll leave Wieseltier’s WMD excuses to another post, but two of the examples of not learning anything seem particularly egregious.  First is up is Michael Ignatieff, one of the most irritating and self-regarding of the “I was wrong for the most honorable of reasons so I was really right and you were wrong you hippie” school of self-justification. (I suppose it goes without saying that he was also pro-torture because EVIL!) After being an effective advocate for a disastrous war, he decided to move on to his next project, destroying what had been Canada’s dominant political party for nearly a century. Perhaps some humility would be in order? Not so much; the crucial lesson of Iraq is that we should consider using force in Syria, because while there’s no reason whatsoever to believe it would work, EVIL!

But does this exhaust the lessons that Iraq holds for Syria? Has American policy become so risk averse that no action in Syria is possible? It is one thing to take futility and perversity to heart, another to conclude that doing the least you can is the only safe option. And there are robust things that can be done, even when we acknowledge the weaknesses of the Syrian opposition, the risk of inadvertently aiding Islamist combat units, and the likelihood that anything America does now is unlikely to give it much influence over the Syria that emerges after Assad’s last stand.

Myself, I have a very robust plan to ignore Michael Ignatieff’s advice on any issue.

Next up, Paul Berman, who continues his general strategy of endorsing the good outcomes of the Iraq War and disowning the many more bad outcomes, as if war can be ordered up a la carte. And, as always, to disguise the feebleness of this approach he just conflates the Iraq War with other exaggerated threats to the United States, producing one big fog that leaves nothing resembling a clear thought visible:

America was drawn into these conflicts of past and present because, in both cases, the isolationist alternative was fantastical nonsense. In the Iraqi instance we have been drawn in because, if I may lay out the reasons, during the first Gulf War, and then after the war, and then during the Clinton years, and then, and then—until, by 2003, the removal of Saddam was the only way to end the stand-off that resulted from all those other “and thens.” And then came the bad news that everyone knows, as well as its opposite: elimination of the region’s most murderous tyrant, prosperity for our ever-overlooked Kurdish friends, and so forth. Some people argue that al Qaeda in its global version underwent its most grievous defeats during the Iraqi surge, and other people insist that Saddam’s overthrow opened the door for the early liberal moments of the Arab Spring, and fervently I hope that these claims are correct, though really I have no idea.

The passive voice in the first sentence is really priceless; the Iraq War wasn’t a discretionary choice made by an administration containing many officials who had a strong interest in invading Iraq well before 9/11, heavens no. And it’s followed up by the false choice of “isolationism” to further remove responsibility from Iraq War supporters, perfect. I’ve linked to it before, but Stephen Holmes’s analysis of Berman’s attempt to make a bad Iraq regime that posed no threat to the United States into part of totalitarian threat comparable to Hitler’s Germany remains utterly devastating. (“But should someone who speculated that an American invasion of Iraq would force Islamic extremists to give up their paranoid conspiracy theories about the Jews accuse others of facile optimism?”) Berman, alas, ten years after the the disastrous invasion was launched is still making arguments that, at bottom, are just a more highbrow version of Tom Friedman’s babble about a “terrorism bubble.”

This is pretty much the liberal hawk argument, and no matter how it’s expressed it’s never been any less idiotic than Friedman makes it sound.

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  • c u n d gulag

    Michael Ignatieff and Paul Berman,
    I have an idea!

    Since what the Syrian opposition clearly needs is committed fighters such as yourselves as “leaders,” why don’t you two, and all of the “some people” you know who support your points of view, go and help the forces battling Assad?

    They desperately need principled fighters like you!

    Just beware of being fragged the moment the real rebels find out you’re nothing but Kowardly American Keyboard Kommando’s, who want others to do your fighting and dying for you!
    Look brave and committed!
    And for FSM’s sake, leave the Cheeto’s and Mountain Dew here, for your victorious return.

    • Joshua

      I’ve talked to people who swear that this time, in Syria, American intervention is just the ticket, and unlike all those other times, intervention will most definitely NOT open up a whole box of unintended consequences.

      I really can’t take these people seriously anymore.

      • c u n d gulag

        This is what happens when people who should be completely discredited aren’t punished, and don’t face any consequences – not even probation, or being fired.

        They blunder onto the next fiasco, with their credibility intact.

        They should have been publicly discredited, and ever-afterwards, openly mocked whenever they dared show their faces in public.

        • One of the Blue

          Berman’s been bad for a while. I remember back in the mid-eighties debating a socialist friend of mine, who still thought at the time Berman was a good guy, about a hatchet job Berman had done in Mother Jones on the Sandinistas. His support for the Iraq war was sad but no surprise.

          Re Ignatieff and torture, just for grins, go here for an interesting portrait of one of his ancestors.

          • c u n d gulag

            I’m a bit dim some day, the author, or Flashman (wasn’t he a fictional character?)

            • I think he means Flashman as at least an intellectual ancestor to his way of thinking.

              Fraser’s Flashman is an antihero who runs from danger or hides cowering in fear, betrays or abandons acquaintances at the slightest incentive, bullies and beats servants with gusto, beds every available woman, carries off any loot he can grab, and gambles and boozes enthusiastically. Nevertheless, through a combination of luck and cunning, he usually ends each volume acclaimed as a hero.

            • One of the Blue

              Flashman is fictional, and I’m sure the portrait of Ignatieff’s ancestor is a bit fictionalized as well.

              The books are a total laugh riot if you are into that sort of thing.

              • MacK

                But very historically accurate. GMcDF also wrote the more autobiographical McAuslan series which are worth a read – and fought in Burma

    • cpinva

      “Just beware of being fragged the moment the real rebels find out you’re nothing but Kowardly American Keyboard Kommando’s, who want others to do your fighting and dying for you!”

      fragging would be a waste of valuable ordnance, they’d just strangle them to death.

  • Corey

    Agreed, this really is a rogues’ gallery (I thought Anne-Marie Slaughter’s was the best and most contrite, but that’s not saying much).

    Which makes it all the stranger that people on this site are insistent on comparing Glenn Greenwald with people like this (and even worse), as if they were one and the same.

    • djw

      Glenn Greenwald was not compared to people like this in Rob’s post. His explanation for his support for the war in 2003 revealed an entirely different pathology than these people are guilty of.

    • DocAmazing

      These guys are at The New Republic. Grenwald’s at Reason. Different neighborhhods.

      • Jon H

        Greenwald’s at The Guardian, not Reason, and was formerly at Salon.com.

  • tonycpsu

    “Say what you will about the tenets of Thomas Friedmanism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

    Commenters in the recent Greenwald thread already already alluded to this, but I’m fine with war hawks like Yglesias or Beinart who do a sincere mea culpa and show that they’ve learned from their mistakes by, you know, not cheerleading other wars before they start.

    I was pretty young and stupid in 2003, so though I was dead-set against the war in the early run-up, Powell’s UN testimony and the passage of the UN resolution for some reason convinced me that it was something we had to do, and that’s a mistake in judgement I will never repeat again. It’s hard to believe that these assholes could be so wrong and learn nothing after so much loss of life, wealth, and respect in the eyes of other nations. You can be wrong about things, but for chrissakes, man up and learn from the mistake.

    • c u n d gulag

      Why bother to learn, when there was NO COST to being completely wrong?

      Would a rapist learn, if he didn’t end up in jail?
      Would a bank CEO learn, if he didn’t end up in jail?

      I think I’ve made my point. :-)

      • howard

        cundgulag: this is the point i wanted to make.

        i can’t really say whether this is something that has gotten worse over time or whether it’s always been true that once you’re part of the power elite, you never have to admit error, but whether it’s old or new, we live in astonishingly unaccountable times for public figures.

      • UserGoogol

        Punishment really isn’t a good way to learn. Some amount of disincentivization of criminal activity is probably necessary, so the criminal justice system probably shouldn’t be abolished just yet. But you can’t really express complicated ideas through punishment.

        • wengler

          Part of the punishment is the inability to rape or CEO during the time spent in prison.

          These people are still out there trying to get their war on with other countries.

      • catclub

        Itsa notta notta, itsa nada.

    • MacK

      I would admit that I was convinced by Powell’s testimony that sooner or later Saddam had to be tackled – I would not have believed the rest of the Bushies, but I though Powell had integrity.

      • tonycpsu

        Right. Appeal to authority is no way to go through life, but
        Powell was a public figure who knew the region and was supposed to do his due dilligence to make sure there was something worth fighting for there. You can’t expect every American citizen to be able to independently research every story about aluminum tubes and centrifuges, so at some point we all have to rely on experts and people with credibility on the issues. It just turns out that Powell, for whatever reason, was willing to take one for the team (if you believe Larry Wilkerson’s stories about how reluctant Powell was) or was himself snookered by the Bushies (in which case, well, I’m glad that Powell for President thing never materialized.)

        • Barry

          Side note – “Appeal to authority is no way to go through life,…”

          It actually is. We get through life by trusting people who know more about the relevant issues than we do. Unless you’re doing your own medical diagnoses…………

          • tonycpsu

            Right, and I covered that in the “but” clause you elided. I was trying to make the point that we can’t all be experts on everything, so we must defer to the judgement of those who are experts, but in this case, the trust placed in Powell was misplaced.

          • catclub

            “trusting people who know more about the relevant issues”

            But the problem with most resorts to authority is that we trust nobel prize winners (or doctors or presidents
            [Democratic Presidents excepted]) about _anything_.

            Or we trust generals about war. Which is like trusting foxes about henhouses.

          • Hob

            My doctor told me that the white spot on my X-ray is actually the tip of the tusk of an elephant that’s gotten trapped in my liver, and we’ve got to get the elephant out because it can only live in a fresh-water environment. And the only way to accomplish this is for the doctor to sleep with my girlfriend, whom he’s had his eye on for the last 10 years. And half of the rest of the hospital staff is standing 20 feet away making frantic gestures at me, as if they want me to run away.

            But who am I to say? I’m not the one who went to medical school!

      • Yes, his early work on My Lai certainly showed that!

        • Malaclypse

          This. Anybody who thought Powell was trustworthy in 2003 wasn’t paying attention to his career.

          • spencer


            • Incontinentia Buttocks


        • Brandon

          Don’t forget his Iran-Contra involvement! Powell never met a man in power he wouldn’t be a sycophant for.

        • Warren Terra

          Yup. Powell had more dignity than the other Bushies, but it was always a mistake to confuse that with integrity.

      • I would admit that I was convinced by Powell’s testimony that sooner or later Saddam had to be tackled

        I thought, after Powell’s speech, that he had hit a triple. All the administration had to do now was produce some backup for his claims, and they’d have a strong case.

        And then they didn’t. And then they didn’t some more. And then they tried, and it turned out to be bullshit. That’s when I realized that the used car salesman was lying.

    • I was living abroad at the time of Powell’s testimony and getting a newspaper that feature OP-Eds from around the world. I saw the UN testimony and thought- that’s it? aluminum tubes? Mobile bioweapons labs? Is this supposed to be scary? Papers from the UK, France and Japan were saying much the same. US Papers were saying “SLAM DUNK! BOOMSHAKALAKA!” It might sound naive but I was young and I had never realized how filtered our news is here in the USA. If I’d been living here I might have believed Powell.

      • that’s it? aluminum tubes?

        Do I need to tell you what the fuck you can do with an aluminum tube?


        • cpinva

          the frightening thing about that video is that I had no problem at all imagining the real bush doing it. Chappelle was just scarily on the mark.

      • that’s it?

        I assumed at the that the speech itself was an executive summary, and that the administration would be coming out with the extended version, complete with supporting appendices, afterwards.


        • The evidence they presented really was underwhelming.

          • cpinva

            “The evidence they presented really was underwhelming.”

            they got away with it for the invasion of Afghanistan, why not double-down in Iraq?

            full disclosure: I was against both wars, right from the start. bush refused to abide by the then existing extradition treaty we had with them, and failed to provide their gov’t with the minimal evidence they requested. evidence? we don’ need no stinkin’ evidence!

            Iraq had, up to 2003, been effectively quarantined from the rest of the world, its oil revenues only able to used for purchasing strictly civilian goods. its airspace was closed off, and every country in the world pretty much had it blacklisted, with respect to acquiring the materials necessary to produce/deploy the claimed WMD’s, which themselves are pretty strictly monitored. to believe that saddam had, in spite of all the obstacles placed in his path, managed to both aquire the materials, and be in the process of converting them to actual WMD’s, was nothing short of fantasy.

            we were being told, by our president, that the US, UN and multiple other countries, had totally failed to stop saddam. in effect, saddam was a fucking magician, possessed of super powers, and it was our job to dump a bucket of water on him. I just didn’t buy it. then, much to my shame, I stupidly sort of bought into colin powell’s demo. I still didn’t totally believe it, but powell made me a lot less cynical. I’ve kicked myself for that ever since.

            the lesson learned: always trust your cynical!

    • Brautigan

      For various reasons, I had been paying almost no attention at all to the run-up to war until Powell’s presentation, which I watched slack-jawed in its unconvincing entirety. That an entire nation could be going to war on such poorly disguised BS floored me then, and it floors me now that anybody could say it is that which convinced them of the need to go kill a shitload of people.

    • wengler

      I felt after his testimony that Powell was full of shit, but I was probably in the minority. It was a definite ‘throw all the shit against the wall and see what sticks’ approach that should’ve clued people into it.

      I remember especially those damn aluminum tubes that the Bush administration attempted to claim were used in centrifuges.

      • Jon H

        I remember the laughable mobile WMD lab vans.

        • cpinva

          “I remember the laughable mobile WMD lab vans.”

          I remember them as well. however, I’m not a scientist, so I was in no position to find the concept immediately laughable. hell, china has mobile execution vans, why not mobile labs?

  • Jesse Levine

    “I was wrong for all the right reasons” is the zombie apologia we will never be able to kill. The liberal hawks are no different than the neocons when it comes to assertion of American power. Domestic policy liberals can have quite a different slant when it comes to foreign policy and national defense. It is a mindset that can never be affected by empirical evidence.

    • Aaron B.

      It’s okay to have false beliefs for justified reasons. Most people do.

    • The phrase “liberal hawk” should mean, say, Al Gore.

      Al Gore supported stopping the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing campaigns, but he opposed the Iraq War, so he’s what? A dove?

      • spencer

        But he’s FATFATFATFATFAT and he uses air conditioning!

      • “Stopping the Serbs ethnic cleansing” was wrong too. We murdered a bunch of innocent civilians and bombed a Chinese embassy to accomplish that, and the Clinton wars paved the way for Iraq.

        And it was never about ethnic cleansing anyway. We let Rwandans die. The Balkans campaign was about asserting American military dominance in Europe.

        We are an evil nation when it comes to foreign policy. I will give Gore credit for opposing Iraq, but as a public official, he was a suppprter of imperialist mass murder.

        • True fact: innocent civilians are only ever killed by Americans.

          All of those Kosovars and residents of Sbrenca went Happyland.

          the Clinton wars paved the way for Iraq.

          Sure they did. Why, if Slobaodan Milosevic had been left unimpeded, George Bush’s hands would have been completely tied.

          And it was never about ethnic cleansing anyway. We let Rwandans die.

          Similarly, the donation I made to the Cancer Relief Fund wasn’t really about helping families of cancer patients, because I totally didn’t also donate to the Epilepsy Foundation.

          We are an evil nation when it comes to foreign policy.

          Sounds like you have a nice little excuse not to have to think. How do we decide whether a particular action is a good idea? We don’t have to! Americans are evil! Must save a lot of time.

          • True fact: we aren’t responsible when civilians are killed by other countries and governments. This has gone on for our entire history. We only even started ASSERTING humanitarian reasons for intervention about 100 years ago– EVERY single humanitarian crisis before then we properly ignored– and even to this day, our asserted claims of humanitarianism are lies, as we only intervene when we think it can further some imperialist interest or (less often) for defensive reasons. When we don’t have such an interest, such as in Africa, we still let people die.

            And worse than that, we sell our wars based on this humanitarian bullshit. We actually heard a lot of crap about how we were going to save people from Saddam’s torture chambers and rape rooms. That was put out precisely because of imperialist murder supporters like you who think that it’s OK to bomb people as long as we have a fig leaf of “saving” some foreign population from oppression.

            It’s very simple. War is justified as a defensive measure, and only then when the benefits of it outweigh its costs. You can definitely justify the Civil War, World War 2, and Afghanistan on those grounds.

            Every other war we fought– including the ones murderous liberals like yourself like– was about imperialism. We have never sought to save foreigners’ lives except when we gained some imperialist benefit, and we never will.

            • EVERY single humanitarian crisis before then we properly ignored

              You’re so awesome and humane.

              our asserted claims of humanitarianism are lies

              This is what’s known as “circular logic.” You make up this assumption, and then you use that assumption to “prove” a specific case, and then you use that specific case as proof of your assumption, which you’ve now decided is stronger because you’ve just found no proof.

              Your entire thought process relies upon national determinism and shoddy logic, designed to excuse from having to take into account the facts of specific situations.

              People who have the same answer to every question actually have no answers to anything. They’re just chanting along with some lyrics that make them feel good.

              • Joe, so the Iraq War was justified because we closed down the rape rooms, right?

                The fact that even the most bullshut war can be given a humanitarian justification, while we still let lots of people die in strategically unimportant regions, is basically proof that the concept is a lie that people who like bombing foreigners, like you, hide behind.

                • Since an argument can be used dishonestly, that means it can never be used honestly.

                  I know, because the dumbest person on the internet told me over and over.

                • people who like bombing foreigners

                  Throwing around cheap accusations of racism and pathology is what you do when you’re getting your ass kicked.

                • I wonder, Dilan, does the Imperial Japanese propaganda about “Asia for the Asians” render impossible the existence of actual anti-colonialism?

                  I wonder even more whether you will be able to figure out what I just asked you.

            • With the term “ad hominem” so constantly misused on the internet, as a synonym for “insult,” it’s good of you to provide a demonstration of its real meaning. Why is it wrong to prevent a massacre in Benghazi and support the popular uprising in Libya? Because Americans are evil liars, that’s why.

              Phew, I thought we might have to put in all this effort to find out the facts of the situation, think about means and ends and outcomes, and try to deal with a multi-variable problem.

              It’s very simple.

              No, Dilan, you’re very simple. It – the world, and foreign policy – is very complicated. You just can’t deal with that, so you make up a simple rubric to avoid heartburn.

              • Joe, your Lybia policy got 4 brave Americans murdered. And Gaddafi was raped with a stick
                And we set a precedent so now no leader will ever cooperate us on a Lockerbie type investigation, because we will overthrow them anyway. And Lybia is now in a civil war with thousands dead.

                Our Lybia intervention was disgusting, and a lot of blood is on your hands.

                • Malaclypse

                  Benghazi Trutherism, and not knowing how to spell the name of the country you are claiming expertise about, do not lend credence to your argument.

                • Joe, your Lybia policy got 4 brave Americans murdered….Our Lybia intervention was disgusting, and a lot of blood is on your hands.

                  Sorry, everyone! My bad!


                • I’m just glad he isn’t allowing pissiness over an internet grudge, and his self-image as a brave dissident, interfere with his understanding of world affairs.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Joe, your Lybia policy got 4 brave Americans murdered.

                  I’m open to arguments about whether the strikes in Libya were justified, but this is really dumb (even if we take your trutherism at face value.) How many dissidents would have been killed had we not intervened? Arguments that ignore inconvenient costs and benefits aren’t any better coming from pacifists than they are from neocons.

                • Silly Scott: don’t you know that nobody is ever killed unless an American does it?

                  At least, nobody that our moral betters like Dilan worry their pretty little heads about.

                • rea

                  Joe, your Lybia policy got 4 brave Americans murdered.

                  The causal link is fairly obscure, unless you mean they wouldn’t have been in the country trying to help people.

                  And Gaddafi was raped with a stick

                  Horrible things tend to happen to overthrown dictators at the hands of angry mobs of their victims. See e. g., Mussolini. We wouldn’t have done that to him if we’d been the ones who caught him–but we weren’t.

                  And we set a precedent so now no leader will ever cooperate us on a Lockerbie type investigation, because we will overthrow them anyway.

                  That’s not what happened. Rather, there was a rather contemptible agreement to forget about the dictator’s personal involvement in the terror bombing of an airplane, in return for a favorable oil deal.

                  And Lybia is now in a civil war with thousands dead.

                  As opposed to a civil war with tens of thousands dead, if we’d done nothing.

                  Really, Dilan, are you trying to win the prize for stupidest thing ever said on the internet? It’s a tough contest, but you might just be a contender . . .

                • Joe, your Lybia policy got 4 brave Americans murdered. And Gaddafi was raped with a stick

                  All y’all muthafuckas better remember this the next time you’re thinking about crossing the Lowell Planning Board.

                  When I say I want front porches on your townhouse units, you put the fucking porches on the fucking townhouses.

                  Do I make myself clear?

        • Allowing “we are an evil nation when it comes to foreign policy” to make up your mind, without needing to take facts of individual situations into account, makes you indistinguishable from the people who allow “we are pure and good when it comes to foreign policy” to do the same.

          The only difference is the color of your team jacket.

          -(my country right or wrong) is not better than the inverse.

          • As I said, we were correct to fight the Civil War, WW2, and the Afghanistan War. None of those conflicts were particularly “good” (war is NEVER “good”), but they were justified.

            But we are a warmongering rogue state that disrespects sovereignty, plays favorites, murders foreigners, and insists that other nations play by rules we routinely ignore. So yeah, we’re evil. One of the worst actors in history. And one of the reasons for this is liberal hawks, because you folks love imperialism just as much as the neocons do, as long as you can make up some phony story about how we are really saving people and taking up the White Man’s Burden.

            It’s disgusting.

            • One of the worst actors in history.

              Grow up.

              Read a book now and again.

              you folks love imperialism just as much as the neocons do

              Wank wank wank.

            • Atila, Flagelum Dei

              One of the worst actors in history.

              What’s that you are saying?

              • No nation has as many times violated sovereignty or bombed as many civilians from the air as we have.

                As George Carlin said, we just love bombing brown people.

                • Hogan

                  Yeah, Atila. How many civilians did YOU bomb?

                • No nation has as many times violated sovereignty

                  Read a book.

                  Jesus, what an idiot!

                • Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Μέγας

                  Have you barbarians forgotten me already?

                • I’m seriously starting to question whether Dilan is JenBob.

                  Is it seriously possible for someone to be this ignorant, or so incapable of reasoning?

                • The funny part is, he thinks he’s educating us about history.

            • The anniversary of the start of the Iraq War is a really, really bad time to be insisting that all you need is a narrative about American power in the abstract to answer foreign policy question.

              “It’s very simple.” Gee, thanks for that.

              • It’s a great time, because liberal “humanitarian” murderers who are dumber than the anti-war left and collaborated with Clinton and Bush are a big reason the Iraq War happened. Just like Vietnam.

                • Leftist pacifist murders spent years demanding the United States not enter World War Two, during the years of the Nazi-Soviet pact.

                  If I was as moronic and dishonest as Dilan, I would cite this as proof of the invariable immorality and bad-faith of pacifists.

                  Or jump off a bridge. One or the other.

                • The anniversary of the start of the Iraq War is a really, really bad time to be insisting that all you need is a narrative about American power in the abstract to answer foreign policy question.

                  It’s a great time

                  I wanted to highlight this. Dilan isn’t disputing that his argument is “An ideological gut-check is all one needs to understand world affairs, and forget about considering the facts.” He is insisting that that argument is correct. Oh, and calling other people dumb.

                • Malaclypse

                  Leftist pacifist murders spent years demanding the United States not enter World War Two, during the years of the Nazi-Soviet pact.

                  I suspect your third word should be something else, but I’m baffled.

                • murderers

                  I’m echoing Dilan’s terminology.

      • John

        My sense is that the general idea would be that Gore was a hawk who became a dove.

  • rm

    Oh, well, if the things that can be done are robust, then that’s okay, all objections are accounted for.

    • rm

      Sorry, there was supposed to be one bolded word and the rest normal.

  • At bottom, the Iraq War indicts war and US imperialism, because it shows how easy it is to sell a dumb war to the American public and our foreign policy elites, and how much harm it can do once such a war is started.

    A lot of people like US imperialism and hate the DFH’s. And those people will never admit that any American failure should cause us tp be more skeptical of war.

  • MacK

    I was in DC for both Gulf War I and Gulf War II. For various reasons I knew a lot of the diplomatic and policy types involved. When in Gulf I the question of removing Saddam came up the most common response was “and then what?” By this I mean that at the time of Gulf I those involved in the debate asked the pretty logical question – if you are going to remove the regime of Saddam what will take its place? What government will there be? Who will it favour? Will it be better or worse?

    By Gulf II everyone simply ignored the “and then what?” question, collectively assuming that if you removed Saddam Iraq would turn into a mild mannered version of Connecticut. My late father, who was a diplomat, used to point out that Saddam was not a uniquely evil individual who simply appeared from no-where to wreak his depredations on Iraqi society; rather he and his regime were a product of the society that he was born and bred in and which he later governed. Why would his replacement be different?

    Interestingly, when it comes to Libya and Uncle who has worked there when Idris was king as an electrical engineer building the first Libyan electrical grid used to tell a story from that time. One day he was in Tripoli when the police cleared out a central square and ordered every home on it to close shutters and pull curtains. Once this was complete a White Mercedes 600 der grosse limousine swept into the square – parking in the middle. Out emerged Idris with his then mistress, who was a minor movie starlet and they proceeded to have sex on the roof of the car. What was the purpose – to show Idris was still virile, to offend everyone, a display of power, who knows. In any event when Idris went that uncle used to point out that at least initially Ghadaffi was an improvement and to understand the new regime it was very necesssary to know what preceded it.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      your last sentence sort of applies to the liberal hawks, too. they were all worked up about 9/11 (god i hate that abbreviation, but…) and were going to remake the world to prevent that from happening again.

      problem was, they didn’t understand what preceded 9/11 and so they got suckered by the cheney administration

      • MacK

        Maybe, though it also was the case that the people saying then what would remind me that, for a brief period, people thought Ghadaffi was going to be an improvement (including the US), ditto Castro (including the US), and that post-Tito Yugoslavia would become a wonderful liberal democracy.

        Marxists are not the only people to fall for a dialectic theory of history. A lot of liberal-hawks do too, assuming that a democratic society based on the rule of law is in fact the natural state of being and that all that prevents it is that nasty Saddam, Shah, Batista, Idris, Mobutu, Bokasa, Czar, Kaiser, etc. Just remove the nasty tyrant and everyone will happily go vote and love one another…

        • Brandon

          Marxists believe that only a singular Strong Man prevents a democratic society?

          • MacK

            I suppose it depends on the “Marxist.” I doubt that one could remotely say that Marx or Engels thought this – or the pre-1917 Marxists – quite the opposite in fact. But Stalinists, Maoists, carriers of Enver Hoxha’s little book, north Koreans – or for that matter Yugoslavs under Tito certainly though a singualar strong man was crucial to the survival of their systems (democratic though most of them called it.) Of course one could legitimately question whether any of the foregoing were in fact Marxists qua Marx – but that is what they self identified as.

            I should mention that a pet peeve of mine is the use by the American right of the term socialist, marxist, communist to describe centre right politicians like say Obama – I know real Marxists and no, Obama is not. But then I find radicals calling themselves “conservatives,” Sinn Fein and the IRA calling itself “republican” or for that matter the modern US Republican party calling itself “republican” pretty annoying too. When it comes down to it though, in doing so the Republicans are the ones copying the Bolsheviks (who were not in fact the bolshevik of the party.)

            • Just out of curiosity how are Irish republicans not republican? They certainly are not monarchists.

              • MacK

                By definition a “republican” is someone who believes in a state where all citizens have an equal right to participate in electing its government and in which all persons have an equal status before the law.

                Sinn Fein and the PIRA (and especially the CIRA) inherently believed that not all were equal in the law or had an equal right to participate in government. Rather they believed is a self appointed group of pure people who did not in 1921 betray the Republic (1st/2nd Dail-ers) and that all who did not agree with this theory had by their betrayal rendered themselves unworthy to participate in government.

                I think most readers would indeed have trouble equating the views of many modern US Republicans with being in fact “republican.”

                • John

                  Did all citizens of Venice have an equal right to participate in electing its government?

                  Answer: no.

        • Kurzleg

          Just remove the nasty tyrant and everyone will happily go vote and love one another…

          Exactly right. This is what puts the lie to Berman’s implicit claim that US intervention in Syria will make things better.

          • MacK

            Maybe intervention in Syria will make it better, maybe it will make it worse – but the idea needs to be thought through to “what then?” first. I’m far from convinced that Syria is thought through, but the situation there is different from Iraq – the place is degenerating into a civil war sua sponte that could render the state ungovernable for the short and medium term. The question is what Europe and the US can do to influence a better outcome, and that is a much murkier issue.

            It is not quite in the realm of “he may be a sonovabitch, but he is our sonovabitch,” but more “the next sonovabitch could quite likely be worse (and per Somalia no sonovabitch at all could be the worst case outcome.)”

            • The actual question facing the US now is, “So the Gulf states are intervening, providing arms to the rebels, and the al Qaeda-aligned forces are growing in strength and influence. We’ve been trying to steer those arms away from the worst actors and towards the most liberal and democratic, but it doesn’t seem to be working. So now what do we do?”

              My pet theory is that “then what?” is the driving force behind the Obama administration’s response to Arab Spring – they see the likelihood of the uprisings succeeding, and want to influence the post-revolutionary government.

              • MacK

                The broadly accepted view (and it looks like it is correct) is that Assad is toast – his regime will hang on for a while, months, weeks not years. The question is after-Assad what do you get. Syria is more fractured than Iraq with Shia, Sunni, Druze, Maronites, Dervishes, Ishmailis, Alawites, Yazids, Jews, Eastern and Western Rite Catholics and various flavours of Orthodoxy – ethnic Kurds, Arabs, Beduin Arabs, Armenians, Turkemen with a leavening of Persians, Chechens, Greeks etc. of most of the religious flavours. There is a very real risk that the whole thing could spin into chaos very easily.

                The involvement of the Gulf Arabs makes this worse because thy tend to sponsor the Sunni/Arab component to the detriment of the others.

                • The broadly accepted view (and it looks like it is correct) is that Assad is toast – his regime will hang on for a while, months, weeks not years.

                  This has been the broadly-accepted view for two years.

                  I’ve got nothing to offer to this conversation but heartburn. Every option, including sitting it out and letting the Gulf states have their way, is rife with pitfalls.

                • MacK

                  Not two years – more like six months

                • MacK

                  There are no good options with respect to Syria IMHO – every potential course looks like a mess.

                  The Western European view is that the sooner Assad goes the less fractured and extreme things get – plus they want the Syrian army to remain intact – having seen the mess that resulted from the Bushies choice to disband the regular Iraqi army (who Saddam did not trust anyway.). The longer this mess continues the more the apparatus of the Syrian state is atomised – not state.

                  Well let me put it this way, some CPAC attendee a few years ago was sitting near my mother in DC (not at CPAC) and announced “government is the problem”. After she repeated this pompously a few time my 70 year old mother asked her how she would like to live in downtown Mogadishu … “you might have a sudden enthusiasm for government – any government”

  • montag

    In the grand question of stupid or evil, one is inevitably forced to say, “both.” They’re not mutually exclusive.

  • If you supported the Iraq war, you are not a liberal. You are either a centrist or an idiot.

    Period. End of discussion.

    • Wouldn’t that have to be “if you would still support the Iraq war now?”

      • No. Anyone with a heartbeat and alpha brain waves could see it was a mistake from the get-go.

        • Aaron B.

          You are not the Grand Inquisitor of all things liberal, or for that matter all things that “anyone with a brain could see.” I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, but people make mistakes. When they acknowledge their mistakes honestly and openly, continuing to shun them entirely is just vindictiveness.

          • tonycpsu


          • Again, anyone with a brain and a heartbeat could see it was a terrible mistake from the get-go.

            Apparently, even you.

            • Richard

              Hilary Clinton, John Kerry, dozens of others. I believed they were wrong but they were and are liberals and, of course, should not be blacklisted because they made a big mistake in voting for the war.

              • Kurzleg

                “Hilary Clinton, John Kerry, dozens of others. I believed they were wrong but they were and are liberals politicians and, of course, should not be blacklisted because they made a big mistake in voting for the war.”


                • Richard

                  I disagree. I think they were liberals who made a big mistake in supporting the war. I would still trust Hilary, despite that mistake, in leading the country in 2016.

                • I don’t think it’s right to equate voting for the AUMF with supporting the war. That vote was sold very hard as a vote to give the administration the tools to disarm the regime. John Kerry was not out there pushing the WMD story and urging war. Hillary was very clear about her vote being to give the President the authority he needed to conduct foreign policy.

                  Which makes their votes worthy of condemnation, but not on the same grounds as the “liberal hawks” who actually worked to sell this war to the public.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  I don’t think it’s right to equate voting for the AUMF with supporting the war.

                  Sorry, but no sale. If you didn’t understand that the AUMF was a vote to go to war in Iraq it was because you didn’t want to know.

                • The behavior of a lot of people in DC suggests to me that the Bush administration was lying, in secret, to Congress (about their intentions, as well as about the WMDs and al Qaeda connections) even worse than they lied to the general public.

              • witless chum

                It’s one thing to forgive, but Hillary Clinton losing the Democratic primary because of her vote for the Iraq War is one of the best things to ever happen in our politics.

                I’m agnostic on her for 2016, but it still counts against her. It’s not like there aren’t others available who could do the job and don’t have that stain on them.

    • If you supported the Iraq war, you are not a liberal. You are either a centrist or an idiot.


      Al Gore opposed the Iraq War. So he’s what? A dove? After supporting the no-fly zones in Iraq, the attack on al Qaeda and the Taliban, and the campaigns to end the Serbs’ aggression?

      Howard Dean, ditto. He was a supporter of the UN mission over Libya, after (like Obama) being a prominent opponent of the Iraq War right from the run-up.

      That is what “liberal hawk” should mean.

      • Cody

        If you supported the Iraq war, you are not a liberal. You are either a centrist or an idiot.

        I think it should be “If you supported the Iraq war, you were not a liberal”

        People change after all, and hopefully a lot of people began questioning their beliefs after that mistake.

      • chris y

        Can you not be a liberal idiot? I’ve come across a depressing number of them in my time.

        Nobody is using the r-word in this discussion, although it’s plain to me that a great number of “liberal hawks” in fact believed, publicly or privately, that Arabic and Indo-Iranian peoples were incapable of making competent decisions or determining their own futures. I used to quote Kipling at them: “Take up the white man’s burden/Send forth the best ye breed…” And then they swore at me and went away, which was a blessed relief.

        • I think that’s exactly the opposite of what happened. The “liberal hawk” line was that removing Saddam would allow Iraqi democracy to bloom. As people upthread have described it, “Get rid of the bad guy and everyone will love each other.”

  • Glenn

    Has Ken Pollack had anything to say on this anniversary? I remember him as being one of the worst liberal hawk offenders, though my memory of things is probably hazy.

    • Jon H

      Ezra Klein talked to Pollack: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-19/mistakes-excuses-and-painful-lessons-from-the-iraq-war.html

      Seems odd, to me, that Klein claims Pollack’s book said that Hussein should be dealt with after Al Qaeda and Israel/Palestine.

      The man’s book’s title was “The Threatening Storm: The Case For Invading Iraq”, not “The Non-Threatening Storm: The Case For Not Invading Iraq Yet”.

      Which, if that was what Pollack really wanted, would surely have been the better title for a book published in 2002, at the height of the push for war.

      Pollack may have given lip service to waiting, but clearly that was disingenuous at best, a thin slice of bullshit to make him appear more moderate than the Bush administration when everything else he was doing was designed to push for a war. Pollack was clearly part of the propaganda campaign to gin up a war, presumably tasked with winning the support of the ‘sensible/intellectual left’.

      Pollack was like a guy wearing a child’s plastic fireman’s helmet, telling a house’s residents “Don’t worry, I’m a fireman!”, while pouring gasoline around the foundation.

      Klein, of course, treats Pollack as some kind of reliable source, not a slimy, unethical, pro-war propagandist with a cushy sinecure at the Power Rangers Institute For Endless War at Brookings.

      • tonycpsu

        “The Non-Threatening Storm: The Case For Not Invading Iraq Yet”.

        That’s hilarious, and sad. And hilarious.

        • Jon H

          I mean, isn’t it awfully strange how a guy who supposedly wanted to hold off on Iraq wound up convincing a lot of left-leaning types that Iraq ought to be invaded ASAP?

          Funny, that.

          It’s almost like that story from the Onion, “Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?”

      • MacK

        At a few people I know who opposed the war used to make the argument that eventually, had one waited long enough, Saddam’s regime quite likely would have offered a legitimate causes belli, but that contriving a false one was a basic error because it costs the invasion legitimacy and provided the pretext for the resistance and particularly the foreign fighters who poured into Iraq. In other words, faking up a reason for war was the original sin that doomed the whole enterprise.

        The same argument could be applied to WW II – that until Hitler had grabbed the rest of Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland, Britain and France lacked the sort of causus belli necessary to for their willingness to go to war from the perspective of their own populations (and the US) to be legitimate (and inter alia it tends to be forgotten that Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany, not vice-versa.

      • Warren Terra

        My recollection of the time is that people with liberal leanings who wound up supporting the war (for reasons other than fear of the electorate, as seen with Kerry and Clinton) often cited Pollack as a major influence behind their decision. People like Yglesias and Drum, I mean.

        • Scott Lemieux

          Pollock’s public appearances, IIRC, were a lot more gung-ho than his carefully hedged book.

      • wengler

        Didn’t he also write a book that was and I paraphrase here Arab Armies Are Shit And They Can’t Fight For Shit?

        He may have been right in the literal sense, but he didn’t bother to study whether or not they could fight effectively as guerrillas in asymmetrical warfare. Which they started doing as early as March 20, 2003(remember how many times Um Qasr fell?).

        • Actually successful Arab asymmetric warfare goes back considerably further. Algeria gained its independence using it in 1962.

  • Ian

    Myself, I have a very robust plan to ignore Michael Ignatieff’s advice on any issue.

    Congratulations! Present yourself at the border to claim your newfound Canadian citizenship.

    • Scott Lemieux

      newfound Canadian citizenship


      • I think the implication is that these days all the Canadians are robustly ignoring Michael Ignatieff, so you qualify for citizenship.

        • Warren Terra

          Unless I’m misremembering, doesn’t Lemieux already have actual (as in, not honorary or blog-commenter-conferred) Canadian citizenship?

          • Scott Lemieux

            Yes, although I will take the blogger-conferred one too.

      • Scanner

        I think Ian is connecting it to your quip up top about Ignatieff crashing his political party. Ignoring Ignatieff’s opinions is now a defining Canadian trait.

        • Scanner

          Ah, the curse of reading all the comments….

    • Haystack
  • Barry

    This is a good post, because it reminds me to not subscribe even to the ‘new’ New Republic.

    • Warren Terra

      It has not, I believe, been de-Wieseltiered. At the very least.

  • Jon H

    Anne Marie Slaughter:”In the end, Iraq served as my political coming of age in the way that the Vietnam was a coming of age for the generation ten to fifteen years ahead of me.”

    FFS, the woman was FORTY FOUR YEARS OLD in 2003. A little late for a political “coming of age”.

    Also, Vietnam was way more than ten to fifteen years ahead of her. Maybe she means the generation who had a political coming of age over the Panama invasion.

    • Jon H

      Also, virtually every quantitative value she gives in her piece is way low:

      “But in hindsight, the U.S. decision to spend tens of billions of U.S. dollars

      “And I could not in good conscience look an Iraqi widow, parent, or child in the eye and tell them that the tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost

      And this is a nice touch:
      “a burden that every American who did not actively demonstrate against the war must carry. ”


    • Bill Murray

      Also, Vietnam was way more than ten to fifteen years ahead of her. Maybe she means the generation who had a political coming of age over the Panama invasion.

      Vietnam is perfectly reasonable here. People 10 years her senior would have turned 18 in about 1968, so Vietnam is quite relevant to that age group at that time. Heck I’m ~2 years younger than her and Vietnam (some) and Watergate (a lot) were part of my political coming of age

      • Jon H

        “Heck I’m ~2 years younger than her and Vietnam (some) and Watergate (a lot) were part of my political coming of age”

        Except hers came in 2003 when she was 44, not when she was 18.

        My bad, I was thinking she meant her older colleagues having such awakenings when *they* were 44 and mid-career, which would have been around 1989.

        It’s still weird. “My mid-career political awakening after years of foreign policy and international law work is *just like* the political awakenings people had at 18 when faced by Vietnam, the draft, and friends going off to that war!”


        • Bill Murray

          I agree with all this — a political awakening at 44 after many years of work in politically related areas is weird, and really if she’d been paying attention when she was young there were plenty of major political issues which could spark an awakening

          • Jon H

            She’s desperately reaching for a way to say she was a rube without actually saying she was a rube.

    • Scanner

      Somehow I don’t think the Swiss and Swedes have to mark generations in terms of what wacky overseas military scarred them growing up; but I guess that’s the price we pay living in the Greatest, Most Peace-loving Nation in History/ #1 Arms manufacturer.

  • TT

    The substance of liberal hawk beliefs was and remains bad enough. But the air of total moral and intellectual superiority in presentation (i.e., I am a deep thinker who thinks deepest of all about the deep issues deep people think about) makes their wrong-for-the-right-reasons stance particularly grotesque. Well, that and their amusing belief that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney actually gave a shit about what they thought.

    • wjts

      Slaughter is particularly bad in this respect, writing, “I now see the decision to invade Iraq as cynical, tragic, immoral, and irresponsible to the point of folly.” The opening of her very next sentence: “I do not think that the thousands of U.S. and allied lives lost were lost in vain…”

      • PSP

        I think there are a lot of people afraid to come out and say that “thousands of U.S. and allied lives lost were lost in vain”. That would be too close to being a dirty fucking hippy and saying “Bush Lied, Thousands Died.”

        • I think it’s really more driven by a desire not to speak ill of the dead, or demean their service.

          Denying a grieving widow even the comfort of believing that her husband’s death had meaning is some pretty harsh shit. There are those who wish to avoid doing that.

          • Glenn

            I have never understood the idea that it would “demean the service” of those who died to state the truth, i.e., that their death was a tragic mistake. Their service — doing what they signed up to do and what their commander asked of them — and their sacrifice was noble. The goal their commander asked them to sacrifice for, was not.

            In any case, I’m much more interested in preventing more grieving widows, and insisting that all of this lost blood and treasure was really for some good just helps increase the likelihood that we go down the same path again. War is tragic, and I’m sure the dead would be the first to agree if they could.

            • Their service — doing what they signed up to do and what their commander asked of them — and their sacrifice was noble.

              In other words, it was not meaningless, and we don’t need to insist that it was in order to also argue against the cause.

              I think people like Slaughter are coming from a good place when they try to find meaning in the service and sacrifice of fallen troops, and our response should be to find it elsewhere, not to insist “No, there isn’t!”

              • Hob

                There’s a difference between “meaningless” and “in vain.” If I lead you to believe that there’s a child trapped in a burning building, and I’m lying, but you don’t know that and you charge in there and die, then your action wasn’t meaningless; it was brave. But you still died in vain, and it was my fault, and that should be acknowledged.

            • Manta

              The statement that their lives were lost in vain does not demean their service.

              Forward, the Light Brigade!
              Was there a man dismay’d?
              Not tho'(though) the soldiers knew
                Some one had blunder’d:
              Theirs not to make reply,
              Theirs not to reason why,
              Theirs but to do and die:
              Into the valley of Death
                Rode the six hundred.

  • Manta

    I think there is a simple explanation why “they” don’t learn from their mistakes: not only there is little price to pay for those mistakes, but the fastest ticket to oblivion for a pundit is admitting he was wrong.

    • Jon H

      And for someone like Pollack, he was wrong, but his sponsors got exactly what they wanted.

  • joel hanes

    the good outcomes of the Iraq War

    I must not have been paying attention when these oucomes, um, outcame.

    Please, what were the good outcomes of the Iraq War?
    (besides completely discrediting the evil people who advoctaed that war in the first place)

    Sincere question; I can’t see any at all.

    • rea

      Even “got rid of Saddam” doesn’t cut it–by now, Saddam would likely ahve been dead of old age, and his two looney kids would have held onto power for about 5 minutes.

    • It’s good that Saddam got what was coming to him.

      It’s good that the Iraqi Shiites are no longer an oppressed majority.

      It’s good that the Kurds don’t have to man a perimeter to keep the tanks from rolling over their towns.

      The restoration of the water flow to the marshes was a good thing.

      I’d even go so far as to say that the presence of a system of electoral representative democracy is a good thing.

      In any major world events, you’re going to be able to find some gross positives if you look hard enough. Even the Japanese invasion of its neighbors in the 30s and 40s, one of the great horrors of world history, had the benefit of bringing the era of colonial domination to and end.

      It’s not the absence of benefits that makes the war such a horror; it’s the scale of the harms that so dramatically outweigh those benefits.

      • rea

        Well, but how many of those things would have happened by now without the war?

        • I’d love to think Iraqi Arab Spring would have looked like Tunisian Arab Spring, but it’s more likely it would have looked like Syrian Arab Spring.

      • joel hanes

        The restoration of the water flow to the marshes was a good thing.

        Is this still a thing?
        I would have expected the water to be re-stolen for all the reasons that water is valuable in the middle east …
        [ googles ]

        It seems that maybe 50% of the marshes are at least partially restored, but that upstream claims on the water leave the outcome still in doubt.

        Still, one good thing.

        Thanks, JfL

    • I suppose you could make the case that the Iraq war was in part responsible for the election of President Obama and by such a large margin.

      The case being: young men and women sent off to war. Young men and women bankrupted by said war. Other young men and women realizing, holy crap, there but for the grace of God. I’m voting for the other guy this time.

      • Warren Terra

        Iraq is responsible for Obama getting elected at all, not just for the margin. Absent their difference on Iraq in 2003, it’s pretty much unimaginable he beats Clinton for the nomination, and absent national revulsion for the Republicans (which was likely due in part to the subprime collapse, to be fair), it’s hard to imagine a Black guy getting elected in 2008.

        • Can you imagine if Bush had kept his eye on the ball and committed the necessary resources at Tora Bora, and then used his clout to get the inspectors back into Iraq and backed them up while they did their job?

          Social Security would be privatized, Chris Matthews would be giving him credit for Arab Spring, and they’d be carving his head onto Mt. Rushmore as we speak.

      • catclub

        Only in part, and small part. If the economy does not crater
        on Sep 15, 2008. It is not at all clear that Obama even gets elected.

        there was enough fear of economic calamity that people resorted to voting for a Black Democrat for president.

        Iraq was a disaster? meh.

  • Murc

    After being an effective advocate for a disastrous war, he decided to move on to his next project, destroying what had been Canada’s dominant political party for nearly a century.

    Michael Ignatieff seemed to have been under the impression that people would vote for the liberal brand, not for the guy fronting it, so all he had to do was trick and stunt his way to their leadership and, eventually, he’d get to be PM.

    He seemed genuinely shocked that it doesn’t actually work that way, that many people who would have, and in some cases desperately wanted, to vote Liberal would completely refuse to do so as long as doing so meant him being PM. They’d just go vote NDP or in some cases Tory instead.

    • mds

      They’d just go vote NDP or in some cases Tory instead.

      Based on the outcome, I’d turn that sentence around, unfortunately. I’m really hoping that Mulcair can continue to build momentum, especially from the useful platform of the official opposition, but there still seems to be plenty of knee-jerk unwillingness to go all in on the NDP, especially in Ontario**. Combine that with a replay of the widespread Tory fraud for which they won’t be held accountable, and I fear you’ll see enough mushy centrists getting behind that dreamy Justin Trudeau to keep the CPC on top.

      **”Knee-jerk” might be too kind. Ontario has had a recent imbroglio over casinos, and the press have already noted that the NDP has flip-flopped on their previous support … from during Bob Rae’s premiership. Which led me to declaim, uselessly, “(1) That was almost twenty years ago; and (2) Bob Rae is currently interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.” During the last federal election, I read Bob Rae’s Ontario premiership cited as one of the reasons why wavering Liberals might go Conservative rather than NDP. Which led me to declaim, uselessly, “(1) The provincial party is not automatically identical to the national party; (2) that was almost twenty years ago; (3) subsequent Conservative premier Mike Harris didn’t exactly make everything all better; and (4) Bob Rae is currently a leading light in the Liberal Party of Canada.” The current state of play in Canada, the UK, and Australia is one reason why I’m not sure that moving the US towards a more Westminster-style system would necessarily be a panacea.

  • Warren Terra

    Pretty much any mention of Ignatieff, but especially any mention of Ignatieff with specific relevance to Iraq, could use a link to David Rees’s utter defenestration of Ignatieff’s arguments for the war (in 2005!) and Rees’s 2007 deconstruction of Ignatieff’s attempt to shovel criticism of war opponents into an essay that was supposedly intended to examine why he’d been wrong to support the war.

    Stephen Harper is an utter disaster (just this week, he’s created political officers to oversee the muzzling of civil servants, and he’s closing down the planet’s premier freshwater environmental research station to save a million dollars a year). But part of the blame for him must be placed with the Liberals selecting one of the most uselessly pompous people on the planet to lead their campaign.

  • blowback

    Scott – you left off Richard Cohen who had a piece in the Washington Post on the tenth anniversary of invasion of Iraq pressing Obama to become more involved in Syria. Why does anybody listen to what these moronic failures have to say?

  • divadab

    Michael Ignatieff was parachuted in as leader of the Liberal Party by the back-room boys. My guess is that there were internal divisions so deep they thought going outside the Party hierarchy was necessary to unify and win.

    I suspect that Ignatieff’s initial support for the Iraq invasion was calculated to smooth over relations with UNcle Sam, who was mad at (Liberal) PM Chretien for keeping Canada out of the war.

    That he has been at best smarmy and disingenuous, and at worst completely dishonest about his obvious bad judgment in this regard is indicative of why he was a failure as Prime Minister.

    Most Canadians knew the Iraq invasion was wrong, justified by marketing lies, supported by the corrupt and mendacious (like Colin POwell, selling out his own reputation in the most odious and dishonorable and OBVIOUS way), and sold to the American sheeple in a full-court media press. Why should they trust someone with such poor judgment as to kiss GW’s butt and support Iraq fiasco?

    And now Ignatieff tries desperately to salvage his reputation with his self-serving fake mea culpa. I suppose he’s at least not a war criminal like Bush, CHeney, POwell, Rumsfeldt, and the rest of that evil crew. But somehow a fellow-traveler is even worse because they just cheer from the sidelines, like Ignatieff.

    • Manta

      Well, it would have made sense to support US even though (or maybe precisely because) he thought the war was wrong: like most of the US allies in the invasion, they did not care about right or wrong, but only to please the emperor (and share the spoils of war).
      What ruined those calculations was that they did not think that Bush&Co would mismanage so badly the aftermath.

    • Jean-Michel

      I suspect that Ignatieff’s initial support for the Iraq invasion was calculated to smooth over relations with UNcle Sam, who was mad at (Liberal) PM Chretien for keeping Canada out of the war.

      Ignatieff held no position in the Liberal Party or the Canadian government at the time–he was still a professor at Harvard and didn’t launch his political career until 2006, by which point he’d already adopted his current “I was wrong for the right reasons” stance. His initial support for the war was entirely consistent with the interventionist “empire lite” position he’d been laying out for years (cf. Virtual War, or his NYT op-ed published three months before Chrétien’s definitive refusal to take part in the invasion). There’s no reason to think it was calculated to “smooth over” Canadian-U.S. relations, unless you believe the Bush administration attached special importance to the opinions of a pointy-headed foreign academic at Harvard. Also, Ignatieff was never prime minister.

  • DrDick

    This headline is not actually true at all. What they learned was that they will never be held accountable, regardless of what they say or do. Also, I agree with JfL for a change. If you supported this war, you are not a liberal.

    • I guess you could still be a domestic/economic liberal and support the war.

  • Still no reason to read TNR. Has not that been true for two generations now?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, since Peretz bought the rag. Early 1970’s?

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  • errorr

    Uh, sorry to be pedantic but that isn’t passive voice although many often misidentify it so. Some people call it irrealis. Passive would be ‘War was America drawn into’ or some such construction.

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