This quote from Tacitus is precious, even if I am appalled by it:
Tacitus can’t admit he was wrong even in the face of facts! Which is to say, because I recognize that occupation policy has been increasingly bad and counterprodutive, I was wrong to support the war, Bush, coconut ice cream, etc. But the hell with that. With all respect to those who operated on a thesis of Administration incompetence from day one, most of them have all the rational quality of the Randy Quaid character from ID4: just because an alien invasion did finally happen doesn’t mean you’re no longer a nutcake. You’re just a very lucky nutcake. And you will be tomorrow. Rational, sane people could and did believe that the occupation would be pursued along rational, sane lines. I’m among them, and I see no reason to apologize for it. We were wrong, of course, but if you think that invalidates our judgment for the rest of time, well, think again. Show me the perfect track record in the public sphere, and I’ll show you the king of apathy or liars. Or maybe I’ll show you Arianna Huffington, but you’ll have to reside wholly within her mental universe for it to work.
In due respect to ID4, Randy Quaid wasn’t a nutcase; he had actually been on the alien spaceship. But that’s not important right now.
What’s more important is the question of whether administration ineptitude was predictable. The answer is yes. You didn’t need to be a fruitcake to believe that the administration was going to fuck up Iraq; you needed to have eyes. The Bushies were already in the process of wrecking Afghanistan. They clearly had no idea how to rebuild a state, and it was obvious that no one was going to help them.
We’re not just talking about rank incompetence and inexperience, although the Bushies had that in abundance. They also had an ideology that, at its core, challenged the notion of a strong state. The Bushies, modern American conservatives, and especially the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, simply have no idea what a state is or what it does. This is evident in both their foreign and domestic policy. They believe that privatization, a low marginal tax rate, and business incentives a paradise make. It’s unsurprising that they can’t rebuild a state. This isn’t true of all conservatives, and a lot of sensible ones saw the Iraq operation for the disaster it was to become. Tacitus, unfortunately, wasn’t one of them.
Rebuilding Iraq was going to be a murderously difficult job for even the best administration. W. and crew clearly aren’t the best, and this was clear before the war. Bush incompetence wasn’t the only reason I opposed the war, although it was one of them. If Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself had called me on the phone and explained that he thought the war was a good idea, and that his team was coming back from the dead to head the reconstruction project, I MIGHT have supported it, although I’m still doubtful. Only the blind could be blindsided by the failures of W.
UPDATE: I’m posting the following comment as an update since the computer I’m on won’t let me post a comment more than 1,000 characters long–djw.
UPDATE: Indeed, smart non-fruitcakes were asking the right questions in real time. I certainly was. So was dsquared, who was far more elequent about it back in February of 03:
His (Tom Friedman’s) conclusion after a long, dull and witless ramble about the introduction of “democracy” to Iraq (just what the Gulf region needs, more puppet states) reads “If [it is] done right, the Middle East will never be the same. If done wrong, the world will never be the same”. There’s not much you can say to that except “shut up you silly man”. But it does inspire in me the desire for a competition; can anyone, particularly the rather more Bush-friendly recent arrivals to the board, give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics:
1) It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration
2)It was significant enough in scale that I’d have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it)
3)It wasn’t in some important way completely fucked up during the execution.
In comments, there are feeble efforts made to characterize Afganistan as not fucked up. Which is also rather precious.