Andrew Sullivan â€“ for whom every topic is ultimately just another opportunity for navel-gazing â€“ offers his mea sorta culpa. Let’s have a mercifully abridged look:
- In retrospect, neoconservatives (and I fully include myself [We know, Andrew, we know – Ed.]) made three huge errors. The first was to overestimate the competence of government, especially in very tricky areas like WMD intelligence. The shock of 9/11 provoked an overestimation of the risks we faced. And our fear forced errors into a deeply fallible system.
I was too trusting, too shocked, too afraid â€“ too, in a word, human. Uh huh.
- When doubts were raised, they were far too swiftly dismissed.
Were raised? Did they just wash ashore at high tide, or were they raised by the very people Sullivan has been calling traitors and dupes for the past four years?
- [T]he miraculously peaceful end of the cold war lulled many of us into overconfidence about the inevitability of democratic change, and its ease. We got cocky. We should have known better. The second error was narcissism. America’s power blinded many of us to the resentments that hegemony always provokes.
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Could this be some sort of epiphany about empire and intervention? Get real:
- Sometimes the right thing to do will spawn backlash, and we should do it anyway. But that makes it all the more imperative that when we do go out on a limb, we get things right. In those instances, we need to make our margin of error as small as humanly possible. Too many in the Bush Administration, alas, did the opposite. They sent far too few troops, were reckless in postinvasion planning and turned a deaf ear to constructive criticism, even from within their own ranks.
Like from me, Andrew Sullivan! I always said we should get things right!
- The final error was not taking culture seriously enough. There is a large discrepancy between neoconservatism’s skepticism of government’s ability to change culture at home and its naivete when it comes to complex, tribal, sectarian cultures abroad.
I’ll give Andy a congratulatory “duh” on that one.
- We have learned a tough lesson, and it has been a lot tougher for those tens of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqis and several thousand killed and injured American soldiers than for a few humiliated pundits.
But this self-effacing essay for Time magazine will help to even the score.
- The correct response to that is not more spin but a real sense of shame and sorrow that so many have died because of errors made by their superiors, and by writers like me.
First rule of neocon punditry: by taking meaningless “responsibility” for the bad consequences, you can logically take credit for the allegedly good ones. But you must first remind the audience that there was really no better choice than the one you advocated:
- All this is true, and it needs to be faced. But it is also true that we are where we are. And true that there was no easy alternative three years ago. You’d like Saddam still in power, with our sanctions starving millions while U.N. funds lined the pockets of crooks and criminals? At some point the wreckage that is and was Iraq would have had to be dealt with. If we hadn’t invaded, at some point in the death spiral of Saddam’s disintegrating Iraq, others would. It is also true that it is far too soon to know the ultimate outcome of our gamble.
Yeah, those goddamn French were probably just pissed at us because they wanted to invade Iraq, but we beat them to it. And this too-soon-to-know-the-ultimate-outcome bit is a moral monstrosity cloaked in banality. It’s NOT too soon to know the ultimate outcome of “our gamble” (what did Sullivan put on the table?) for the scores of thousands already dead. What Sullivan is saying is that if the Iraqis ever manage to overcome the suffering inflicted on them by the War Party (including its years of supporting Saddam), then Sullivan will accept their humble thanks. Think I’m being too harsh? Well, here comes, as Andy might say, the money shot:
- What we do know is that for all our mistakes, free elections have been held in a largely Arab Muslim country. We know that the Kurds in the north enjoy freedoms and a nascent civil society that is a huge improvement on the past. We know that the culture of the marsh Arabs in the south is beginning to revive.
Blah, blah, blah. But, in conclusion, how does Andrew Sullivan feel about all of this?
- Regrets? [Cue Sinatra. – Ed.] Yes. But the certainty of some today that we have failed is as dubious as the callow triumphalism of yesterday. War is always, in the end, a matter of flexibility and will. And sometimes the darkest days are inevitable â€“ even necessary â€“ before the sky ultimately clears.
What a friggin’ hack.