Andrew Sullivan: What I Got Wrong About Iraq. A sample:
|I recall very clearly one night before the war began. I made myself write down the reasons for and against the war and realized that if there were question marks on both sides, the deciding factor for me in the end was that I could never be ashamed of removing someone as evil as Saddam from power. I became enamored of my own morality and this single moral act. And he was a monster, as we discovered. But what I failed to grasp is that war is also a monster, and that unless one weighs all the possibly evil consequences of an abstractly moral act, one hasn’t really engaged in anything much but self-righteousness. I saw war’s unknowable consequences far too glibly.|
Still, I hesitate to say that ‘we’ were right and ‘they’ were wrong. There is too much we don’t know and can’t ever know. We can’t go back and conduct a controlled study of futures, one with and one without the Iraq war.
The side I still feel most comfortable taking is the one against war itself. That it’s a lesser evil doesn’t make it good.
Some times we have no choice. That clearly was the case for WWII. Most times we do have a choice. Iraq was one of those. And we made the wrong one.
But knowing that now doesn’t help show a path of right choices toward ending the war, ending terror, ending hatred and distrust of The Other.
Still, failure teaches. It gives lessons.
Andrew Sullivan again:
|When I heard the usual complaints from the left about how we had no right to intervene, how Bush was the real terrorist, how war was always wrong, my trained ears heard the same cries that I had heard in the 1980s. So I saw the opposition to the war as another example of a faulty Vietnam Syndrome, associated it with the far left, or boomer nostalgia, and was revolted by the anti-war marches I saw in Washington. I became much too concerned with fighting that old internal ideological battle, and failed to think freshly or realistically about what the consequences of intervention could be. I allowed myself to be distracted by an ideological battle when what was required was clear-eyed prudence.|
|Most of the Boomers I know are still fixated on the 1960’s in one way or another — generally in how they think about social change, politics, and the government.|
|It’s very clear when interacting with Senator Obama that he’s totally focused on the world as it has existed since after the 1960’s — as am I, and as is practically everyone I know who’s younger than 50.|
Today we have a boomer president who is one of those who did not learn any lessons from America’s failure in Vietnam: how we entered the war on delusional and trumped-up premises, how our conventional means lost to the unconventional ones, how we failed to understand the culture and language of the war’s theater, how millions died for no good reason, how the nature of a vast and bureaucratized national security apparatus is too devoid of imagination to do anything on this scale without failing.
That void still exists. If General Petreus and his strategy succeed in Iraq (and we’re a long way from finding out), it will be due to imagination and resourcefulness that are devalued by practice in any large bureaucracy.
Recognizing this does not require having lived through the Sixties, or being obsessed with that time. It does require some perspective. In regards to Iraq, we finally have some of that.
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