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More On Iraq War (Non) Apologias

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A helpful guide.

But, fortunately, the most egregiously wrong were all held accountable!

I think Yglesias has less to apologize for than most war proponents, in that he was a college student rather than a public official or well-compensated professional pundit, and he turned clearly and strongly against the war well before he had any professional interest in doing so. But, at any rate, this is how you do it:

Here’s my lessons learned from the U.S. invasion of Iraq: Starting wars is a bad idea.

And, finally, on the other end of the spectrum, John Yoo ladies and gentlemen!

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  • c u n d gulag

    Yoo should be horse-whipped, if we all only still had horses!

    I’d settle for running him over, and then putting the car in reverse, just to make sure he’s dead.

    What?
    Too soon?
    That “head on a stick” thingee is SOOOOO yesterday! ;-)

  • Malaclypse

    This remains one of the things where Henley was very, very right:

    What all of us had in common is probably a simple recognition: War is a big deal. It isn’t normal. It’s not something to take up casually. Any war you can describe as “a war of choice” is a crime.

    • pete

      Thanks for that. I missed it in 2008, but it’s just as needed now. If not more so.

    • Hogan

      Also this, in another context:

      There is nothing whatsoever uncertain about this war business. I personally believe that a swift strike through the Low Countries will knock France out of action so I can concentrate my forces against the Czar. I believe that once I get my army across this creek near Manassas Junction secession will crumble; you will probably want to come out and watch. I’m damned certain that the way to preserve the Hapsburg Empire is to show the freaking Serbs we won’t put up with their terrorist monkey business. I think I should be able to conquer Canada in a few months. I think that the time to grab the Fao Penninsula is now, while Iran is distracted and weak. And I know, just know, that there’s no history of ethnic strife in Iraq like there is in the Balkans.

      • Aaron B.

        In Bismarck’s defense, the “swift strike through the Low Countries” totally worked, but only after the tank was invented.

        • Heathcliff

          ITYM Schlieffen, or perhaps von Moltke.

          • Hogan

            Sorry, I just came over all Bronte for a minute.

        • rea

          It worked in WWI, before the tank was invented. In WWII, the Germans faked going through the Low Countries, and punched throgh the Ardennes intead.

      • timb

        Is he saying we should all be reading Balkan Ghosts again?

  • He tweeted that.

    I was happy to see such a blank verse admission.

    • Captain Bringdown

      The blank verse admission (assuming you’re talking about Yglesias here) is vastly superior to the blog post version which follows that statement by saying, “The classic analysis of this case is an economic one, …”

      He then goes on to explain how from an economic standpoint the Iraq war, if you consider it a war for oil, was a disaster. Which is certainly true. But one has to infer that for Yglesias, there is some level of hypothetical economic benefit of an imperalistic war for oil that would be worth the human cost. Which is pretty monstrous.

      • rea

        one has to infer that for Yglesias, there is some level of hypothetical economic benefit of an imperalistic war for oil that would be worth the human cost.

        “X is not A” does not imply “not X is A”.

        • Captain Bringdown

          Fair enough. But the first thing he talks about in his post is, “The classic analysis of this case is an economic one, …”

          The most important analysis of this case is not an economic one, that’s for sure.

          • Malaclypse

            Fun fact: the average (surviving) European was better off economically in the years after the Black Death than the years leading up to it.

            How Matt would evaluate the Plague is left as an exercise for the reader.

            • Evan Harper

              I’d respond with something about the principle of charity in interpretation, but you’d probably come back with something about how I’m a small-minded conservative for advocating charity instead of redistribution.

            • Erm, why? Seems pretty obvious that the economy as a whole was worse, even if individuals were better off. And that’s without even noting that there was a drastic difference in terms of competition for resources and such.

              • Thlayli

                On the individual level, two reasons:

                1) inheritances

                2) smaller labor pool which drove wages up.

                • Malaclypse

                  And more arable land per capita.

                • No, I know why the survivors were better off (as Mal says, it’s basically because they got all the land), I meant I don’t see why it would be difficult to see that Yglesias probably wouldn’t think that that made the plague a net positive for humanity.

                • djw

                  Yeah, agree with Brien here. If I recall correctly from the long-ago days when he did more philosophy blogging, he’s pretty much on board with Parfit’s repugnant conclusion.

            • Barry

              “How Matt would evaluate the Plague is left as an exercise for the reader.”

              In retrospect, as an economic Good Thing.
              If he was watching it roll in, and facing a 25% chance of dying, I’d bet that he’d stop with the Mankiwian tone.

          • rea

            Oh, for crying out loud! Let’s look at the context, and see if he said anything remotely objectionable:

            The classic analysis of this case is an economic one, coming from Norman Angell’s 1911 book The Great Illusion. Given roughly market economies and free-ish international trade, he argued there was nothing Germany could possibly gain from conquering Europe. Workers would still have to be paid, and resources would still have to be purchased. Some particular industries—armaments industries, in particular—might gain from war, but on the whole there was no way for the German people to enrich themselves through conquest. This led him to predict—wrongly—that general European war would be averted. But his claim that launching a war would be economically ruinous was completely vindicated.

            Is there anything in that to which any sensible nonwarmonger would object?

            • djw

              Well, I rather think yes. Applying actually serious economic analysis to war isn’t going to be good for the warmongers. Indeed, they’re smart enough to generally avoid this approach. But a great deal hinges on the meaning of your phrase ‘sensible warmonger,’ which I confess to finding mysterious.

              • Anon21

                It might be less mysterious if you read it correctly.

              • Scanner

                Unless there’s some other context I’m missing, rea said **non**warmonger.

                • djw

                  Well, that’s embarrassing.

                • rea

                  I’ve done far stupider things . . .

              • timb

                It was in the old days when you could steal everything and sell the people as slaves…I bet John Yoo wishes he were a conquistador.

          • Njorl

            The most important analysis of this case is not an economic one, that’s for sure.

            To someone who opposed the war from the start, you’re correct. If you want to convince someone who is prone to support wars of choice that the war was wrong, it is not a poor choice of argument.

      • Decease Mather

        It all comes down to economics for MY. Even the human cost would need to be quantified in some sort of economic terms, and then graphed to show that it has value.

        • rea

          Well, you know, when somebody hires you to write about economics, it’s not terribly surprising that your writing analyzes issues in terms of eocnomics.

          • Warren Terra

            This. There are a great many valid criticisms to be made of Yglesias, and honestly I think that as regards some of the more important of those valid criticisms he’ s only gotten worse over the years. But you can hardly fault the guy hired to write the Moneybox column when he seems to put an economics sheen on everything.

            • Cody

              Also,
              I think we can appreciate convincing someone not to go to war because of economics. If he’s correctly inferring that we are just going to war for economic reasons, and that our leaders don’t value human life very highly.

              Both reasonable assumptions. I feel that if someone says “We should kill x for Y” and you can prove that’s wrong, its not agreeing that it’s a legitimate reason.

        • UserGoogol

          I really wouldn’t call it economics, just utilitarianism, economics is just the most utilitarian-friendly social science. Every value has to be traded off against every other value.

      • But one has to infer that for Yglesias, there is some level of hypothetical economic benefit of an imperalistic war for oil that would be worth the human cost.

        I think he is just making the economic case because he has an economic blog. You’d have to look back on his original support to see if he thought that the economic benefit from oil was solely sufficient to justify invasion. I suspect that is not the case.

      • Erm, no, you clearly don’t have to infer that from his post, because such a hypothetical seems plainly unrealistic in the real world.

        • rea

          People were arguing that at the time, though, and I believe Cheney has said something quite recently confirming that was part of the motive. The idea was that by controlling the Iraqi oil fields, we would be able to control the global oil prices.

          • But, as Matt implicitly gets at at the end, the cost of a war is extremely inefficient for such a goal. And a theoretical war for oil that entailed sufficiently small financial and human costs that would theoretically end in Yglesias supporting it on “economics” grounds now is just impossible.

      • dsn
    • FlipYrWhig

      The pedant in me wants to say that that’s not what “blank verse” means. Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, like in _Paradise Lost_.

      • My God, did I screw up back in aught-three!
        It’s such a bad idea to drink cough syrup.

        • Awesome.

        • NonyNony

          +1

          Also – all of twitter should be composed in blank verse.

          • Oh hell yeah.

          • Alexander Pope

            Is there for heroic couplets no love?
            That blank verse up your own arse you can shove.

        • Auguste

          Awhile it’s been since I reviewed blank verse
          but ten and one syllables ended that.

  • Anna in PDX

    My favorite apologia was John Cole at Balloon Juice. He had originally issued it on the 5th anniversary of the war, and he reposted it day before yesterday. It was about the most Maxima Mea Culpa I’ve seen on this issue.

    In comments to another post he remarked, “I shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car.”

    • c u n d gulag

      Yeah, Cole proved himself to be a real Mensch!

  • Bill Murray

    I think John Cole’s apology is also very good, although it’s 5 years old now. http://www.balloon-juice.com/2013/03/19/ten-years-in/

    I see that Andrew Sullivan was asked to list what he got wrong about Iraq for the five year anniversary of the invasion, and since I was as big a war booster as anyone, I thought I would list what I got wrong:

    Everything.

    And I don’t say that to provide people with an easy way to beat up on me, but I do sort of have to face facts. I was wrong about everything.

    I mean, I could go down the list and continue on, but you get the point. I was wrong about EVERY. GOD. DAMNED. THING. It is amazing I could tie my shoes in 2001-2004. If you took all the wrongness I generated, put it together and compacted it and processed it, there would be enough concentrated stupid to fuel three hundred years of Weekly Standard journals. I am not sure how I snapped out of it, but I think Abu Ghraib and the negative impact of the insurgency did sober me up a bit.

    • Bill Murray

      dang my adding the link and the quotes made me 3 minutes late of Anna. Oh well, at least I added something

      • Anna in PDX

        Yes, I am an idiot at the HTML so you provided a link which was much better than just my say-so!

  • Boots Day

    I think Charlie Pierce is right, and it’s just time for these people to shut up. I don’t particularly want to hear from Lester Maddox on “How I Got Segregation Wrong,” either.

    • Why the hell wouldn’t you want to read that?

      • Keaaukane

        Did he ever admit he was wrong?

        • Seemed like we were hypothetically stipulating as much.

          • Boots Day

            I suspect it would consist of a meager admission that yes, perhaps it was better for the Negro to be fully integrated into society, followed by a pleading that lots of other people got it wrong, including famous and important men like George Wallace and Strom Thurmond. Then he’d point out all the benefits of segregation, like how people just loved our public school systems back then, not like those icky inner-city schools now.

            Then there’d be something about how Robert Byrd was once in the KKK.

            • Which wouldn’t actually be a mea culpa, but point taken.

              • Barry

                That’s the point, that these ‘mea culpas’ can be summed up as ‘I was right to be wrong; you all DFH’s were wrong to be right’.

            • Colin Day

              So Lester Maddox is Manju?

  • Pingback: Why I believe that John Yoo is a slant-eyed piece of excrement | Thinking Americanist()

    • sharculese

      I did not know that LGM’s readership included unhinged neo-confederates. Huh.

      • Linnaeus

        Uh, yeah…something we can do about that trackback?

        • rea

          Christ–a Den Best clone.

          • I dunno who that even is, but John Yoo should be deported to the Nork’s for what he did.

            • rea

              Steven Den Beste–early warblogger, at one point the toast of the right side of the internet, now faded into obscurity. Shared a great many of your opinions, and there is also a certain physical resemblence . . .

        • Funny how Democrats claim to be tolerant of other people’s, as long as it matches your idiot worldview.

          John Yoo is a bastard war criminal and a POS. He’s also south Korean, and his eyes are slanted. It’s called reality.

          Look into it, please.

          • Malaclypse

            So, would you say that the best argument against Yoo is his eyes, or is that just a highly relevant addition? Do kimchi farts factor into this at all? Please elaborate, over on your own blog.

          • spencer

            Funny how Democrats claim to be tolerant of other people’s, as long as it matches your idiot worldview.

            Comprehension, you haz it not.

            Also, if your worldview says it’s okay to use racial slurs, then your worldview sucks and should be roundly condemned and ignored.

      • Neo-Confederate? Hardly. I made the comment and I do not regret it one iota. My family hails from Georgia and Kentucky. John Yoo should be jailed or better yet, executed for his war crimes.

        I normally respect other races, but in his case, I make an exception. He belongs in North Korea, for what he did.

        Sorry if that offends, but it is how I feel.

        -Patrick

        • So if it offends, but go fuck yourself.

        • Oddly enough, Patrick, I find that the contempt I feel for you does not extend to all white people or Michiganders.

        • Hogan

          Anger is a feeling. “That slant-eyed POS should be sent to North Korea” is not a feeling.

        • witless chum

          So you “feel” racism because a Korean-American dude is torture apologist and you “feel” a classic wingnut cliche about tolerance that has been being stupid for about decades. I’m not particularly offended, just convinced you’re a piece of shit who isn’t worth listening to about anything.

        • Cody

          The whole point is we are fine sending John Yoo to North Korea, but it has nothing to do with his race.

          Why would it matter at all?

          (P.S.: Surprised he doesn’t go to N.K. I’m sure they could use some legal justification for their torture too)

  • brad

    Meh, Yglesias has written so many different apologies for so many different audiences I have trouble telling what’s genuine and what’s basically an expression of careerism in his case.
    Not to mention his first, and thus to me most important, attempt had a strong element of being wrong for the right reasons with the right people vibe. At least he wasn’t a DFH about it.

    But then I refuse to respect Megan McArdle’s lunchtable crowd so I would say all that.

    • brad

      Also, where have the pieces in the mass media been about why some of us got the war right? I feel like some fox nation commenter for asking that, but in all the “we got it wrong, look at us admitting it and being intellectually honest” write-ups I’ve seen there have been barely any glances, even, at those of us who got the biggest single test of political acumen in a generation correct and why we did. We’re still wrong for being right, as far as I can tell.
      I know I’m pissing in the wind here, but jebusfuck, in a way it’s 2002-3 all over again.

      • LoriK

        I’m glad that I’m not the only one who noticed this. I know it can be difficult to point out one’s own rightness without sounding like an ass, but there’s at least as much value in examining the process by which some people came to the right conclusion as there is in looking at how some other people got it all wrong.

        For example, it would be good if, in the future, more people grasped that when the stated problem keeps changing, and getting more vague with each change, but the prescribed solution remains the same we’re being lied to.

        • catclub

          Budget surplus? Cut taxes!
          Budget deficit? Cut taxes!

          • Thlayli

            Got a toothache? Cut taxes!

            • Hogan

              Taxes too low? Cut taxes!

      • Cody

        I think this is the whole beef with these apologies.

        It goes “I was wrong, but it was for the right reasons”. This way it leaves no room for people who were right, to be right for the right reasons.

        It allows people to continue their messed up process without actually taking any flak for it. No, you weren’t wrong for the right reasons. There is no such thing. It’s possible to be right and have bad outcomes, this isn’t one of those things.

    • rea

      Not to mention his first, and thus to me most important, attempt had a strong element of being wrong for the right reasons with the right people vibe.

      I was an early Yglesias reader, and my recollection is that he changed his position on the war very, very early on–almost as soon as the war started. I don’t remember that vibe at all. But of course, he doesn’t really have easily accessible archives going back to ’02 or so . . .

      • brad

        I don’t mean his coverage, you’re absolutely right that once he accepted his error he joined the reality based community in fairly full measure.
        I mean the first apology post he wrote, and I can’t remember where he posted it or seem to find it with my limited googlefu so I apologize for my referent free assertions. My memory of it is that he basically said that he was wrong, but he was with the right people in being wrong. My memory may fail, hopefully someone with a better memory/link collection can link and/or correct for me.

        • Medrawt

          Actually, my memory is that Yglesias at some point wrote, in essence, the meta/self-aware version of that:

          “I was wrong, because I was immature and kind of an asshole and the people who were agitating against the war annoyed me and I thought they were naive and that by listening to the people I was listening to I was being more sophisticated; I was wrong about all that.”

          i.e., “I was a teenage hippy-puncher.”

          It’s why, while he’s not perfect, I think it’s one of the better apologies out there in that it was grounded in a realistic assessment of the personal flaws that led him down that road, and while sometimes he snipes needlessly at people further to his left I think he’s largely left that attitude behind (and certainly has on the topic of war). No apology from Andrew Sullivan will ever engage with the truth that Sully was feverishly agitating for war for exactly the same reasons that he was feverishly pursuing the notion that the Palins were disguising dark secrets of parentage: he’s an excitable boy who likes to fashion himself a Teller of Uncomfortable Truths.

          • Malaclypse

            No apology from Andrew Sullivan will ever engage with the truth that Sully was feverishly agitating for war for exactly the same reasons that he was feverishly pursuing the notion that the Palins were disguising dark secrets of parentage: he’s an excitable boy who likes to fashion himself a Teller of Uncomfortable Truths.

            See also his Bell Curve praises.

            • Anna in PDX

              This is how I would describe Hitchens. I feel like these guys literally get off on being contrarian. And in this sense I am using the word “literally” exactly how it is supposed to be used.

          • who likes to fashion himself a Teller of Uncomfortable Truths.

            I think this describes Dick Cheney, too. He sees himself as the Hard Man, willing to say the terrible things that need to be said, and this status is the root of his power.

            The problem with this is that it creates a perverse incentive to say horrible things, because doing so enhances your own power, prestige, and self-image.

            • Haystack

              …to say and do horrible things

      • Jonas

        Yglesias actually turned against the war before it started. He supported the Iraq use of force resolution that was passed by Congress giving its war powers to the president due to the claims at the time that this was needed in order to begin Iraq weapons inspections. Essentially taking Bush at his word about reasoning for the use of force resolution . But when Bush ordered the inspectors out that was when he (Yglesias) admitted he was wrong.

  • mom

    The people who planned, executed and supported the Iraq war should all be arrested on treason and sent to Gitmo to be forgotten in a hole and starved to death.

    • zolltan

      Mom?

  • Malaclypse
  • FMguru

    Turning things around, here’s a list of people who got it right about the Iraq war. Pretty much every eminent International Relations scholar in American academia signed on (seriously, read the names – it’s like a murderer’s row of IR big shots).

    The field of IR (and academia in general, as this blog regularly points out) has its share of follies and blind spots and structural problems, but that list is something that IR scholars can point to and be proud of.

  • The American media, ten years after the Iraq war

    Given the scale of the crimes and the devastation wrought by the Iraq war, the reaction of the American media has an Orwellian character. Ten years after a massive media campaign to pressure the public to support a war of aggression, there is not one serious review of the events that led to this catastrophe. The story is consigned to two-minute news spots and brief articles.

    The New York Times carried a list of brief comments by US academics and state officials, titled “Was it Worth It?” Harvard University professor and former Deputy National Security Advisor Meghan O’Sullivan made the filthy argument, “Believe it or not, we’re safer now” after the war. Reprising the WMD lies, she argued that without invading Iraq, “It is at least conceivable that [former Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] would have a nuclear weapon today.”

    The Washington Post wrote that Iraq is “teetering between progress and chaos,” acknowledging ongoing sectarian warfare but citing Najaf Governor Adnan Zurfi’s comment that, “Most people now have a good job and lots of opportunities.” Besides the fact that this is a lie, even if it were true, it would not justify a US invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/03/20/pers-m20.html

    • Shakezula

      Meanwhile, it was absolutely inconceivable that NoKo would have a nuclear weapon even though they loudly announced their intention to make one and then tested one and well, you know, made the world unsafer.

    • Cody

      “It is at least conceivable that [former Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] would have a nuclear weapon today.”

      Hilarious. This sounds like something I would write in fucking 3rd grade.

      “Well Teacher, you see, I don’t have my homework finished. It’s because if I did my homework it’s conceivable I would have died of frustration. Maybe not, but maybe I would have. That’s why you should give me an A”

  • Shakezula

    Oh, Iraq, Ishmaq. Can we invade Syria yet?

    [The above is sarcasm, which is my only outlet for what I feel about the chickenhawks who are calling for U.S. “action” in Syria, seeing as I can’t punch them right in the cocks.]

    • Yeah, I couldn’t believe that’s the first thing I saw on the news this morning over coffee. Some fucking R Senator (thankfully not McCain) loudly pounding the drums for “taking out” Syria’s “capacity” for war or some such. One of the anchors said, essentialy: “And how would we do that” and he hemmed-n-hawed a bit and avoided the question.

      Fuckers.

      • Karate Bearfighter

        One of the anchors said, essentialy: “And how would we do that”

        Progress!

  • dave

    Something about the mea culpa’s this time around is really making me surprisingly angry. These people all need to go away forever. That includes Yglesias, Klein, and the other “liberal” careerist hacks.

    The reasons Ezra Klein got the war wrong are the same reasons he is so credulous when it comes to Paul Ryan and are the same reasons he will be wrong a thousand times in the future on his way to becoming David Broder 2.0

    The only correct answer to the question of why liberal hawks got the war wrong is that they are craven careerists who will do and say what it takes to climb the next wrung of the media ladder. That is the ur error from which all their “mistakes” spring.

    Until they admit this, they should be shunned and ignored by all decent liberals.

    • I know I shouldn’t, but…what about Ezra Klein’s writing makes you think he’s “credulous” when it comes to Paul Ryan?

      • Malaclypse

        See here (and, in his defense, here.)

        • That strikes me as polite more than credulous. At the end of the day, every liberal in the media can’t be polemics blasting Republicans every which way…someone has to get the grist too.

          • dave

            Just over a year ago, I wrote a column praising Rep.

            Paul Ryan’s Roadmap. I called its ambition “welcome, and all too rare.” I said its dismissal of the status quo was “a point in its favor.” When the inevitable backlash came, I defended Ryan against accusations that he was a fraud, and that technical mistakes in his tax projections should be taken as evidence of dishonesty. I also, for the record, like Ryan personally, and appreciate his policy-oriented approach to politics.

            That quote, in particular the bolded sentence, from Klein’s mea culpa on Ryan, tells you everything you need to know about Klein’s careerism.

            His initial piece was full of praise for Ryan because doing so was a good career move. As a result Klein failed to do basic homework on Ryan’s plan and made numerous elementary mistakes.

            Then, after liberal pushabck makes it plain that Ryan’s plan is complete garbage, Klein writes a piece which pretty much calls Paul Ryan a fraud, but prefaces the whole thing with a statement that he likes Ryan personally. That statement utterly undermines the whole piece. How can you say that about a person who you are accusing of outright lying on an important policy matter?

            That sentence is pure career maintenance and it’s emblematic of why Ezra will never be there for liberals when it really counts.

            • dave

              Blockquote FAIL.

          • Cody

            I just… can’t think of any single good thing Paul Ryan has ever said or done.

            I could see not blasting away “libertarians” all the time. Okay, we agree we shouldn’t go to war! Or that we shouldn’t arrest everyone! Or people should have some personal freedom!

            Tons of things to blast them about, but it’s okay to agree on issues.

            Paul Ryan though… what has he done that’s at all defensible? Increase defense spending? More wars? No SS after he used it? Fake budgets?

    • rea

      The reasons Ezra Klein got the war wrong are the same reasons he is so credulous when it comes to Paul Ryan

      He’s not really all that credulous abut Paul Ryan.

      See here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/23/what-happened-when-i-asked-paul-ryan-why-he-hates-taxes/

      Or here:
      http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/03/paul_ryan_and_the_true_cost_of.html

      • dave

        He’s come around on Ryan because Ryan’s plan has been proven (by others) to be an utter fraud. But Klein still likes Ryan personally!

        Don’t worry, Klein will be there to offer intitial support to some other fraud in good standing in the beltway. Maybe it will be Marco Rubio. Maybe Rand Paul. Notice it took Klein three major posts before he was able to even accurately describe the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ budget proposal. And even then, he called it equivalent to that of the Ryan budget.

  • Bloix

    “the most egregiously wrong were all held accountable!”

    Well, at least Michael Kelly isn’t being published any more.

    Oh, wait …

  • rea

    I was never a supporter of the war, but the tell for me very early on in the runup to the war is that the Bush administration’s people kept saying things that seemed to me to be unreasonably optimistic. I’ve read enough history to know what usually happens when you enter a war all optimistic about your chances, and base your strategic decisions on that optimism. I long had some lingering doubts–surely these people with their decades of experience understood what they were doing better than I did? After all, I was just ome guy with a computer . . .

    Turned out they didn’t understand what they were doing. Hubris and its consequences, yet again.

  • Very interesting post and thread. I came here to make a comment about how it was precisely Yglesias’s shallow roots in the commentariat that enabled him to switch so early and apologize so forthrightly. I.e. he wasn’t a policy expert or official. So two cheers for the blogosphere, or something.

    It turns out that Yglesias and I are pretty similar. I personally think the case for war wasn’t all that bad, flowing if you will from a “UN resolutions” logic, and I do think that the liberals who opposed the war (a) notably avoid discussing what becomes of Saddam Hussein in their scenario, and (b) tend to over-demonize the Bushite nitwits who got us into the war.

    To be clear: I swerved away from war in the last week or so before it started because I had a gut feeling that the Bush administration would not be able to manage it competently — i.e. a pragmatic opposition. I was richly vindicated in that view, of course, the Bushies were indeed incompetent. Beyond that, I find the whole thing sad as hell, and a constant litany of the death toll as if it automatically erases whatever Saddam would have done doesn’t do much to make me feel like the motives of the antiwar crowd are all that pristine. Partisan politics tends to get emotional and personal, and that’s the primary way this debate has been conducted.

    • rea

      notably avoid discussing what becomes of Saddam Hussein in their scenario

      By now, he’d be in his late 70’s, and markedly feeble, if still alive. His two sons were not well-liked, to put it mildly, and not particularly competent. There would probably have been a change of government and an accomodation with the rest of the world.

      • I can only repeat my observation that antiwar advocates seldom bring up the subject of Saddam. I think that points to somewhat of a problem in their argumentation.

        • rea

          Well, yeah, I know you can only repeat that. That is usually not a sign of a good argument.

        • Malaclypse

          I can do this! I’m an anti-war person! Did Saddam ever kill a million people in a single decade? No? Then please be shutting the fuck up, forever.

          • Well shrilled.

            • Malaclypse

              I’m a Shrill One? Cool.

              Now please be fucking off with your fantasy perfect wars, that go according to plan, and are not at all fucking atrocities.

              • If I’ve been shrill I apologize. I don’t think I’ve been very shrill. I’m arguing an unpopular position with a lot of people attacking me. I haven’t done much attacking of people except to point out that getting very emotional about the subject doesn’t do anyone much good.

                • Malaclypse

                  I’m arguing an unpopular a phenomenally stupid position, which killed a fuckton of human beings when it got adopted, with a lot of people attacking me.

                  Fixed.

                • djw

                  arguing an unpopular position

                  Where’s the argument? “War critics seldom addressed X” is an empirical claim, or perhaps an observation, but it’s certainly no argument.

                • rea

                  It’s not an argument–it’s a contradiction.

                • Haystack

                  Martin,

                  Saddam would have gotten weaker without the invasion. Remember the sanctions and the military containment. These were working, albeit brutally and slowly. Saddam didn’t have the resources for anything other than bluster and gamesmanship. The “anti-war crowd” (silly label) recognized this.

                  They also recognized Bush & Cheney & the neo-cons making the plans as incompetent, self-serving and untruthful. Wasn’t it obvious to you?

                  Is that really your argument? The “anti-war crowd” never offered a solution to a hypothetical future Saddam, therefore my support for illegal war is morally excusable.

                  Jesus.

        • rea

          And I might add, those of us who, back in the day, opposed an invasion of the Soviet Union, and preferred to let events take their course, didn’t exactly turn out to be wrong, did we?

          • I don’t find that analogy very compelling. We’re not talking about Jack D Ripper here, we’re talking about 70% of the Senate and who knows who else. All the attacks I’ve been getting here establish the point I was trying to make earlier, which is that the antiwar advocates tend to repress the fact that it was a closer call at the time, there was a reasonable case for the invasion. It wasn’t in the end a good idea and I opposed it for reasons pretty similar to the ones people are citing here, the costs would be too high. But an emotional reaction and defining a well-meaning opponent out of bounds isn’t helpful.

            • which is that the antiwar advocates tend to repress the fact that it was a closer call at the time, there was a reasonable case for the invasion.

              It wasn’t a closer call at the time.

              • Well, it was closer.

                Not close, but closer.

                • I don’t really count “Don’t do it, it’s idiotic” as too far from “Don’t do it, it’s almost entirely idiotic”. Not a close call in either case, but I know what you mean.

              • So ergo i was wrong to assert that antiwar advocates will never say this?

                • Malaclypse

                  Yes, I refuse to be as wrong as you. No matter how often you ask.

            • What, exactly, was the reasonable argument for the war again?

              • wjts

                Iraq had a lot of unpainted schools and we had a bunch of paintbrushes and half-empty cans of paint that were just sitting there.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  BALSA WOOD DRONES WOULD DROP HYDROGEN BOMBS ON OMAHA!

            • Malaclypse

              it was a closer call at the time,

              No it wasn’t.

              there was a reasonable case for the invasion.

              Funny that they needed all the lies then.

              It wasn’t in the end a good idea and I opposed it for reasons pretty similar to the ones people are citing here, the costs would be too high.

              Your fantasy war, well-run, with lower costs, was never a remote possibility. Anybody with a fucking clue about what war really is knew that.

              • it was a closer call at the time,

                See, the 70 votes in the Senate are actually ironclad proof that you’re not right about this. That Pollock guy wrote a rather good book about it, before the fact. You didn’t need lies to make a decent case for intervention.

                • Hogan

                  You think all 70 of those Senate votes were based on Saddam being about as ugly a dictator as many other ugly dictators? You don’t think the WMD hype motivated a single one of them?

                • Of course I think WMD is part of the case. At this moment I’m merely arguing that you can’t argue that there was NO case for a proposition that garnered 70 votes in the Senate. Both the last and the present Secretary of State, Democrats both and not dumb people, voted for it. Some of the people here may have supported the last Secretary of State in her presidential run. The idea that this was an open-and-shut case does not do credit to the people making the argument.

                • Malaclypse

                  At this moment I’m merely arguing that you can’t argue that there was NO case for a proposition that garnered 70 votes in the Senate.

                  Dude, there is a case to be made for invading Canada. There is a case to be made for invading Belgium. But those cases would be stupid. And in any event, as I said above, Henley was more right than you will ever be: War is a big deal. It isn’t normal. It’s not something to take up casually. Any war you can describe as “a war of choice” is a crime.

                  And I don’t give a fuck how many craven Senators you can find to be complicit, Iraq was always going to be a crime.

                • djw

                  70 votes in the Senate are actually ironclad proof that you’re not right about this.

                  Is “90 votes in the Senate” evidence that it’s a “close call” whether we should do jack shit about climate change or not?

                • brandon

                  “Hit bad guy, he can’t hit back” is a case most powerful people have trouble resisting, especially when they are smarting from someone else hitting them. That gets you most of the way there really.

                • djw

                  Think hard about this: do you really want to take the position that really terrible ideas always–without exception–max out south of 70 votes in the Senate?

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Plessy v. Ferguson was 7-1 — clearly, the case that segregation was not intended to connote racial inferiority was nearly ironclad.

            • Auguste

              it was a closer call at the time, there was a reasonable case for the invasion.

              Just wanted to add another voice to recognize that no it wasn’t, and no there wasn’t.

              Many, many people – including those already seen as credible, not just dirty hippies – pointed that out at the time. But they were ignored.

              In fact, at the time, those of us who were speaking out against the war did discuss the fact that the media was so skewed that in 10 years no one would remember how obvious the case against the war really was. Et voila.

              • Anna in PDX

                Yes, I feel the same way about Iran now, it is so clear to me what the lies and exaggerations and fabrications are and people who actually read IAEA reports say “they are ten years from even starting to think about making a bomb” and yet the drumbeat goes on.

                At the time people like Joe Wilson were screaming “no no no” and people like El Baradai were also screaming “no no no” and people like Scott Ritter were also screaming “no no no” and yet all these VSPs kept saying “we have to take all this evidence seriously and this is a totally strong case.”

                No, it wasn’t. Sorry 70 senators were wrong because they listened to hype. They were not only wrong but they didn’t do due diligence and were too quick to listen to the convential wisdom even though the evidence that it was bullshit was OUT THERE.

                • As it happens I’m totally with you on Iran — Leon Panetta was on the Hill last year stating that the state-of-the-art intelligence on Iran was that they have not yet made a decision about whether to pursue nuclear weapons. Which is a fact the warmongers seldom bring up about Iran.

                • Bob Graham is a better man than I.

                  I would have started throwing things, and been dragged out by the Capitol Police.

                • Malaclypse

                  I would have started throwing things, and been dragged out by the Capitol Police.

                  I’m not so sure that that would not make you a better person than Graham.

                  None of us did enough. I know I didn’t.

            • xxy

              antiwar advocates tend to repress the fact that it was a closer call at the time, there was a reasonable case for the invasion.

              Wow. You really do not understand what war is, do you? Let’s look at the death tolls of major wars the U.S. has engaged in this and the last century:

              World War I: 16 million
              World War II: 60 million
              Korean War: 2.4 million+
              Vietnam War: 1.1 – 3.8 million
              Gulf War: 25,000 – 40,000
              Afghan War: 27,000 – 29,000+

              Even counting out the Afghan War since it had only been ongoing for a year or so, how can you look down that list and say hey, there was a reasonable case to invade Iraq? How can you say it’s a “close call” like we’re playing football when tens of thousands to millions of lives are on the line?

              War is massacre. The impetus is completely on the person making the case for war. You shouldn’t even have to make a case – it should be clear and self-evident like in the case of self-defense, or an imminent nuclear attack. Nothing else is worth it. There is no such thing as a close call.

              Unless you live comfortably in a first world country that hasn’t seen war since 1865, lack a basic sense of empathy, and think about war in terms of how exciting primetime television is going to be. I guess then it’s a close call – I like blowing stuff up but I don’t like seeing too many dead bodies. I guess as long as American deaths are kept to a minimum it’s a net positive!

              Asshole.

              • Malaclypse

                Thank you.

              • JoyfulA

                I also thank you.

                And I also think Gulf I lacked sufficient reason, as did the invasion of Afghanistan.

              • rvman

                I’ll note here that, before the war, the sanctions in place had killed at least half a million Iraqis due to malnutrition and interrupted medical supplies over about 12-13 years. Continuing them for another 10 would have cost almost as many lives. A lot of the people supporting the war, at least on the center/left, thought that a “Gulf War” or “Afghanistan” level casualty count coupled with removed sanctions was more humane than the alternative of continuing the sanctions. The war was supposed to be the equivalent of ripping the bandage off quickly rather than peeling it off slowly.

                We also needed to get out of Saudi Arabia. Al Qaida was itself a direct response to the presence of US troops there. As long as we were there, Al Qaida had a recruiting message that was a threat to stability on the Arabian peninsula. We couldn’t pull out unless the mission of those troops was complete – pulling out early would have been sending a “the terrorists won with the big high-casualty terrorist act”, which was a non-starter as a security matter – whatever we did, we could not reward 9/11, because that would have bought us more 9/11s. Pulling them out through invading Iraq looked like a solution to that dilemma. Official sources couldn’t talk about this reason much, again to avoid making it look like the terrorists won, but this was very likely on their minds when looking at the ‘official’ case for the war.

                The obvious counter is that the solution would have been to declare victory and lift the sanctions, (oh, look, Blix says he can’t find any weapons and has full access. Hussein has fully accounted for his WMDs in that “report” he finally filed in January, 2003. 8-10 years late, but whatever, he’s clean, lets go home.) but that wasn’t on the table with Bush or Clinton, would have been a cruel betrayal of the Kurds, and still would have been perceived by the terrorists and their allies as a “win”. (The Cuba sanctions were almost as bad a humanitarian problem, the ’cause’ they were put in place for is basically won,they are basically counterproductive as to their purported goal of getting the Communist government to step down and yet they continue even now, a Cold War zombie.)

        • Why should we think your “observation” is 1) accurate and 2) meaningful?

          Given that your bare observation conveniently denigrates people opposed to you (who were correct) and equally conveniently lionises people making your argument (who were wrong), it’s extra special important that you provide actual evidence. At the very least, you need to marshall a hell of lot more care in pressing this point particularly when you fall back on such nonsense as X senators voting for something means there’s a case. (In particular, at the very least you need that the case they were voting for was significantly weighted toward removing Saddam).

          FWIW, my counter experience was that the Saddam problem was something prominently discussed even during the Clinton era. In particular, the question of whether 1) leaving the sanctions in place, or 2) removing Saddam, or 3) lifting the sanctions would be most likely to produce good outcomes (technically, what the expected utility would be as some of the ones with good outcomes had high probabilities of terrible ones).

          Of course, the Saddam is the new Hitler both in terms of his geopolitical threat and his treatment of his own population was impossible to ignore since it was a prominent pro-war line. Including the ‘you’re objectively pro-Saddam”.

          So, either you are a terrible observer, or, well, it doesn’t get better than that.

    • sibusisodan

      I personally think the case for war wasn’t all that bad, flowing if you will from a “UN resolutions” logic, and I do think that the liberals who opposed the war (a) notably avoid discussing what becomes of Saddam Hussein in their scenario

      Erm. Why is it incumbent on those opposing removing the dictator from power to explain what happens under the status quo?

      How is that even a thing to require discussion of? It’s a hilariously weak counterfactual.

      • If you oppose what happens, then you are suggesting that your way is a better way — so you become responsible in some ways for the things that happen in the status quo. This isn’t a wacky thing I’m saying here.

        • Karate Bearfighter

          I propose we blow up the moon.

          Your turn.

          • Look. Bush’s goal was to remove Saddam. If you say you oppose that, then in a relative sense you support Saddam staying where he is. The alternative to war was something called “sanctions,” a policy that wasn’t really working very well, to the point that nobody really even brings it up anymore. If you are standing in the way of a well-intentioned effort to improve things (let’s call the war that for here), then yes, you are responsible for the things that happen in the absence of that thing.

            • Malaclypse

              a policy that wasn’t really working very well

              It worked a fuck of a lot better than killing nearly a million Iraqis did.

              • rvman

                Sanctions had already killed half a million Iraqis – mostly children,by 2003 through malnutrition and poor medical access. There is no reason to think they wouldn’t have killed at least that many in the intervening time since. The war calculus included that war wasn’t going to kill more than sanctions already had, and the casualties of the war would at least more likely be agents of the Iraqi government, and thus more guilty than the Shia kids who were already starving. It didn’t work out this way, but that was the idea.

                The occupation of Iraq was far more costly in both dollars and blood than anyone who supported it had as even a ‘worst case’ scenario. It wouldn’t have been this bad had we not messed up the occupation phase by essentially making outlaws out of the entire standing Iraqi army, thus creating the insurgency. Bush didn’t screw up the war, he screwed up the peace.

            • If you say you oppose that, then in a relative sense you support Saddam staying where he is.

              You don’t think Arab Spring blows a bit of a hole in this argument?

              • The counterfactuals are too complex to be cocksure about any of it. You’re telling me to accept as an argument against the war the existence of a popular uprising that happened in a universe in which that war did happen? It seems to argue in favor of the war if anything. I just don’t think we can say for sure what a police state like Iraq would look like in ten years, as opposed to a relatively open society like Egypt.

                • The counterfactuals are too complex to be cocksure about any of it.

                  And you don’t think this applies to your argument that Saddam would still be in power?

                • Hogan

                  The counterfactuals are too complex to be cocksure about any of it.

                  Oh NOW you tell us.

                • Saddam had been in power for 30 years and there was little reason to see anything changing from the status quo. The sanctions were mainly punishing the Iraqi people and doing very little to weaken Saddam’s grip on power. That may be a nutty counterfactual to you, but the evidence of Saddam being ready to tumble is not very strong.

                • The only point I was making there is that anti-war people dislike discussing the actual consequences in Iraq of letting Saddam run the country. I think that’s obviously true, and I don’t see the Arab Spring as arguing either way very much.

                • Saddam had been in power for 30 years and there was little reason to see anything changing from the status quo.

                  So, slightly longer than Mubarak.

                  Except Mubarak didn’t have anything remotely like the Kurds or the Shiites staring him down.

                • Haystack

                  The only point I was making there is that anti-war people dislike discussing the actual consequences in Iraq of letting Saddam run the country.

                  Any proof of that?

            • Anna in PDX

              That was not the stated goal. The stated goal was WMD’s.

              • In fact there were 4 stated goals.

                • Malaclypse

                  Were any of them, you know, something that might count as self-defense, that were not obvious lies to anybody who knew the first thing about Collin Powell’s actual career path? No? Then kindly be shutting the fuck up.

            • wjts

              Look. Bush’s goal was to remove Saddam. If you say you oppose that, then in a relative sense you support Saddam staying where he is.

              A relative sense? Surely not. I opposed the Iraq War because I was objectively pro-Saddam. Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds told me so.

            • rea

              Bush’s goal was to remove Saddam.

              And you know, one thing missing from this thread so far is mention of the strategic insanity of that goal in the post-9/11 context.

              Bin Laden was a veteran of Afghanistan, where the Soviets had been draw into a prolonged guerilla war, which not only they did not win, but which was a significant factor in trashing the Soviet economy and bringing about the downfuall of the regime. By launching terror attacks on the US, bin Laden hoped to draw the US into a similar conflict, leading to the collapse of our economy. And of course, look what happened.

              Meanwhile, the Bush administration was full of ex-Cold warriors. It used to be, they were sure that every movement opposing colonialism or ogigarchy was run from Moscow. Carried over to the post-Cold War era, this led them to assume that terrorism must have a state sponsor. Saddam therefore must be behind al Qaeda–even though al Qaeda passionately hated Saddam’s secularism. In fact, of course, Saddam’s enemies, in order of priority to him were (1)Shiite fundamentalists, and their Iranian sponsors, (2) Sunni fundamntalists, like al Qaeda, and only then (3) us.

              In other words, Bush responded to 9/11 by doing exactly what bin Laden (not to mention the Iranians)wanted us to do.

              • Ding ding ding.

                “There are no good targets in Afghanistan. There are lots of good targets in Iraq!”

                “I don’t think much about Osama bin Laden anymore.”

                The Clinton administration warned these people that al Qaeda was the greatest national security threat the US was facing, and they blew the warning off so they could engage in great power jousting with China, because Real Men know that competition between states is what matters.

                How many troops did we have in Kabul when Osama walked out of Tora Bora? But, hey, gotta hold the capital!

        • Malaclypse

          What happened under the dozens of other dictators we didn’t even discuss removing? Are we responsible for every bad government on the planet? Why?

          • Perhaps we should look at fixing our own bad government first.

          • Scott Lemieux

            Why do you support the North Korean government?

          • Emma in Sydney

            Well, the US did set up many of the worst dictators on earth. Oddly those generally are not the ones they seem to want to topple.

        • sibusisodan

          If you oppose what happens, then you are suggesting that your way is a better way

          Nooo, I would be saying that changing from the status quo would be a worse way, and that it’s up to the change advocates to show I’m wrong, and that change would lead to better outcomes.

          This isn’t difficult, and you seem to want to make it difficult.

          Although I’d like to see your approach applied to statistics. It would be hilarious. ‘You say we have no reason to prefer the alternative hypothesis, therefore you must think the null hypothesis is a good thing! Go on then, show us that the null hypothesis is better!’

    • xxy

      Beyond that, I find the whole thing sad as hell, and a constant litany of the death toll as if it automatically erases whatever Saddam would have done doesn’t do much to make me feel like the motives of the antiwar crowd are all that pristine.

      Care to elaborate what exactly Saddam would have done that was worth between 100,000 and 1 million dead? I don’t think it would have been all rainbows and unicorns if we hadn’t invaded but what exactly are you thinking would have happened?

    • Malaclypse

      Your fantasy war was never going to happen. No fantasy war has ever happened. No fantasy war ever will happen. Every war ever will be full of incompetent people causing atrocities. The war you thought you wanted was exactly the war you got. Wanking about how you wish better people would have run your war better is a fucking obscenity.

      • Anna in PDX

        I hated that documentary about how badly the provisional government or whatever screwed up the initial period after the invasion. I kept thinking “what if we had not done this at all? Then we would not have done all these stupid things in IRaq.” It’s this weird military fetish about concentrating on how efficiently to do things, while completely ignoring whether they should be done at all. I realize that is the military’s role, but the entire coutnry (media, politicians, etc.) acted the same way.

    • Jay B.

      I do think that the liberals who opposed the war (a) notably avoid discussing what becomes of Saddam Hussein in their scenario, and (b) tend to over-demonize the Bushite nitwits who got us into the war.

      a) No, you were just ignoring them and believing the hysteria he was some kind of threat. There was a No Fly zone, he was practically neutered and he had destroyed his WMD, plenty of people said this. Saddam wasn’t a threat, his regime was buckling under sanctions and it certainly appears that Iraqi society was in better shape then than it is today. You may have been asleep. Good guy? No. Worth this? No.

      b) That’s just about impossible. They lied us into war, then conducted war on the cheap, then did everything wrong in the occupation and THEN want to get us into another war with Iran.

      Seriously, you must have been asleep.

    • Haystack

      Also

      over-demonize

      Is that even possible?

      • Haystack

        Oh.

        Hi, Jay B.

    • Cody

      Hey man, if you supported the war when it happened because of false information that’s fine.

      I did. I was also 14, and barely watched the news. So, I guess I was a sucker. I certainly am not going to say it was a good thing though. How can you defend now, knowing you were being lied to, that it was okay?

      You expect people in public discourse to be informed and held responsible when they are not. The media isn’t supposed to parrot lies, they’re supposed to investigate them. That expands to the blogosphere now. And if you get tricked, then you either admit you really messed up and need to work on your investigation/rational thinking/logical abilities, or be smacked in the face and no longer a person worth listening to.

  • elm

    Wow. Judith Kelley serves on Fox News media ethics panel? Almost akin to appoint John Yoo to an endowed chair for the study of human rights or something similar.

  • herr doktor bimler

    Now I’m wondering how the anniversary has been marked in the UK. Have there been any mea-culpas from war enthusiasts such as Nick Cohen? Are they hoping for collective amnesia?

  • HP

    Well, I’m just a simple country hyper-chicken, not a fancy political scientist or historian. But back in November of ought-two, when they started beating the drums of war, I said to myself, “I reckon I don’t know too much about Iraq. Maybe I should read up on it.”

    What I found out is that the people of Mesopotamia have a national myth, a myth that dates back to the days of Alexander the Great. When Alexander began his conquest of the known world, the people of Mesopotamia had plenty of advance warning. When his troops arrived, they made a show of token resistance, and let the troops march in. Alexander declared victory, built a town called Alexandria (Iskandar) and set up a viceroy while he went on to conquer a huge swath of central Asia and India. Several years later, when Alex when on his way back to Macedonia, he found Iskandar in ruins, his viceroy dead, and the people of Mesopotamia living pretty much as they always had. This story became mythologized, memorialized in song and poetry, and is to this day taught to every child in the region and reinforced throughout their lives.

    Over the next 2000 years or so, successions of invaders sought access to the productive fields and wealthy ports of the region. Assyrians, Syrians, Persians, Abbasynids, Seljuks, etc., etc. Each invader would be met with token resistance followed by an extended campaign of random violence, assassinations, etc., until they left.

    As recently as 1918, with the fall of the Ottomans, the British fell into the same stupid trap with an army made up largely of South Asian conscripts. (The British Empire, moving largely on foot, made the trip from Basrah to Baghdad in half the time the Americans did in 2003.) And once again, as had happened since the time or Alexander, the British Empire found itself facing a targeted insurrection that made staying infeasible. The result was what we now know as Iraq, with it’s typically crazy post-colonial borders shoving together a bunch of historically incompatible populations.

    So, I learned this capsule cod-history in the course of an afternoon, in between bouts of doing my real job. And when people would ask me what I thought about invading Iraq, I said, “We’ll march in and very quickly overthrow the current government. Then the real war will start. We’ll face constant, low-level insurgency, factional violence, policing factions. This will go on for at least 10 years, before we leave in defeat.”

    That’s just the lessons of history. Throw in that there is a natural enmity between pan-Arab nationalism and Islamism, that Saddam’s seemingly contradictory statements about WMDs were mostly about regional politics (could he reasonably announce to the the world — and therefore to Iran and Saudi Arabia — that he was a sitting duck?), and it was clear that all the pro-war arguments were coming from a position of ignorance. It’s no sin to be ignorant, but at some point, if it took the failure of the invasion to oppose it, and you still haven’t learned the most meager facts about the region, then your continued ignorance becomes a moral failure, and I am free to judge your character as I see fit.

    • Njorl

      That’s nonsense. The people of the region had a remarkable reputation for being compliant with conquerors. The Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Persians, the Seleucids, the Parthians, the Sassanids, the Arabs, the Turks all had remarkably little trouble.

      Compare the history of Mesopotamia with the history of Armenia just a short distance away.

      • HP

        Maybe it is nonsense; I’m not a historian. I spent a fucking afternoon looking at national myths and Mesopotamian identity. It’s not whether my cod-history (as I was careful to call it) is true; it’s whether the people of Iraq believe it.

        What happened in 2003 ff is that the Iraqis played by the rules of their national myth, while the Americans played by the rules of theirs. As long as that was the case, the outcome was entirely predictable.

        You may have the advantage, Njorl, of being right on the merits. I, on the other hand, bear the curse of Cassandra, which is, if not tragic, a colossal pain in the fucking ass.

  • LFC

    Haven’t read this thread, but as a point of info Yglesias makes a common mistake about Angell; he did not “predict [in 1911] that general European war would be averted.” (He did however make the economic case about war’s futility that Yglesias mentions.)
    http://howlatpluto.blogspot.com/2012/02/robert-kagan-norman-angell.html

  • The only point I was making there is that anti-war people dislike discussing the actual consequences in Iraq of letting Saddam run the country.

    How about this:

    1. There would be a fuck of a lot more Iraqis alive today.
    2. A fuck of a lot of Iraq wouldn’t be rubble.
    3. Saddam Hussein would still be in power (if he wasn’t dead) but…
    3A. Would STILL not be an existential threat to the US.
    4. 4 or 5000 American soldiers still alive.
    4A 50,000 American casualties unhurt.
    5. a TRILLION fucking dollars not spent.

    Ok, yeah. Hussein treated some of his citizens like shit. So does the American criminal justice system. But I don’t see where that list of consequences is so pants-wetting terrifying.

    • rea

      Add to your list (6) there would be less excuse to worry about Iran, since we would not have replaced Iran’s prime enemy with a Iranian ally, and (7) bin Laden would have been dealt with much sooner.

  • zolltan

    As many here have noted the ironclad case against Iraq is: it was a war of choice, and wars are always terrible, therefore this war wasn’t worth it. The thing is, no politician could make that argument at the time, because pacifism was not an acceptable position to hold.

    I don’t think the “lessons learned” from Iraq have changed anything: this will continue going on forever because somehow pacifism, or even “pacifism except in cases of genocide” continues to be an unacceptable position for US politicians. I don’t know of any major US politician that is a pacifist (which isn’t to say there aren’t any – but at least implies they and/or the media aren’t particularly vocal about teir pacifism)

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