Learned Nothing

There are different categories of wrongness. People can be wrong for the right reasons. They can be wrong for the wrong reasons. And, worst of all, they can be wrong without conviction because they benefit by being wrong.

Right now on its tenth anniversary we’re being deluged by analyses, apologies, and apologias of just how disastrous invading Iraq was. Some are heartfelt, like Andrew Sullivan’s, to his credit. Most are far from that.

In my view the worst of the worst, worse than the reviled neocons, worse than the ordinary people who just went along, are the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. Every Democratic Senator who wasn’t in a safe seat and had presidential aspirations voted in favor of invading Iraq. I don’t believe for a moment their protestations that they were bamboozled by the Bush Administration. They knew what the Bush Administration knew. They made their decisions and I believe that they made them solely in the hope of political gain or the fear of political loss. They are schmucks. Two of the schmucks have since been appointed Secretary of State, presumably their consolation prizes for not becoming president.

Most of the major Left Blogosphere bloggers of the time supported the invasion of Iraq as I documented years ago. Josh Marshall. Kevin Drum. Matthew Yglesias. That brings me around to Ezra Klein:

I supported the Iraq War, and I’m sorry.

I have my excuses, of course. I was a college student, young and dumb. I thought that if U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell and former President Bill Clinton and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair all thought it was necessary, then that was because they had intelligence proving as much. I thought there was no way the Bush administration would neglect to plan for the obvious challenges of the aftermath. I turned on the war quickly when I saw how poorly and arrogantly it was being managed.

Youthful folly can be excused. Outspoken youthful folly is hubris and is far more difficult to forgive. He has shown no signs of contrition other than verbal ones. Let me supply a less self-serving explanation for his change of view: his views changed when the positions of Democratic Party leaders did. He was just falling into partisan line. He’s been rewarded for his loyalty. He has learned nothing.

All signs suggest that Americans, generally, have learned nothing:

Opinions about the use of military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons also have not changed much in recent years. Currently, 64% say it is more important to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it means taking military action; 25% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran, even if it means they may develop nuclear weapons.

War is a dirty, ugly, horrifying, wasteful, vicious matter. There is no glory in it and it certainly should not be waged for gain—whether political, geopolitical, or economic. There is exactly one reason to wage war: because you have no other choice. Clearly, that’s a lesson we have yet to learn.

54 comments… add one

  • TastyBits

    @Zachriel

    For 363 years, the rule of law was that countries/nations were sovereign entities, and their internal affairs were not to be interfered by others. In 2011, this inconvenience was tossed aside, and a new rule of law has replaced it – Do what we say, or else.

    I am quite sure that the Somalians, Iranians, North Koreans, etc., etc., etc. are comforted knowing that anybody bigger than them can change their government on any trumped up charges, and I am equally certain the Americans, Europeans, Russians, and Chinese are making sure that their internal affairs are acceptable – lest they be invaded. Yeah, right.

    I do not know what is worse – the arrogance that one is better than everybody, or the belief everybody is too stupid to figure out the game. Everybody expects to be fucked by the big boys, but nobody deserves to be disrespected. Look a man in the eye and tell him you are going to fuck him over. He may not like it, but at least, you respect him as a man.

  • Zachriel

    TastyBits: For 363 years, the rule of law was that countries/nations were sovereign entities, and their internal affairs were not to be interfered by others. In 2011, this inconvenience was tossed aside, and a new rule of law has replaced it – Do what we say, or else.

    That’s hardly the first time. In any case, international law allows interventions for humanitarian reasons, among others.

  • Zachriel:

    I think the experience of the last several decades suggest that “humanitarian interventions” are, at root, doing things that would otherwise be banned under the guise of humanitarian impulse.

    Take the last two major examples. The bombing of Kosovo was never authorized by the UN. The intervention in Libya by the U. S., Britain, and France clearly went far beyond what was authorized by the UNSC. They were both outlaw actions but, since the participants included permanent members of the UNSC, what could be done about it?

  • Zachriel

    Dave Schuler: I think the experience of the last several decades suggest that “humanitarian interventions” are, at root, doing things that would otherwise be banned under the guise of humanitarian impulse.

    Perhaps, but your examples don’t support your contention as they both entailed humanitarian crises. A better example would be Iraq, but the world has largely judged that intervention harshly.

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