The Iraq Gamble
At the pundits' table, the losing bet still takes the pot
It begins with a rehash of a David Brooks column on the joys of meritocracy in America. The column then gives us examples of how it doesn't apply in the MSM at least when it comes to Iraq. They give examples of four pundits who were right about Iraq and careers have floundered.
- Robert Scheer
- William S. Lind
- Jonathan Schell
- Scott Ritter
- Peter Beinart
- Fareed Zakaria
- Jeffery Goldberg
- Thomas Friedman
and my favorite
Pre-war position: Re-reading Friedman's columns from the six months or so prior to the invasion of Iraq can induce vertigo. Unlike many of his hawkish colleagues, he grokked all the vital details of the situation. He understood that there were alternatives to war ("Bottom line: Iraq is a war of choice"). He understood that the WMD casus belli was for the most part a convenient line (cautioning that it was merely the "stated reason" for the war, and early on calling out Bush and Blair for "hyping" the evidence). He took a shine to the idea of regime change, but seemed clear-sighted about its low chances for success ("Setting up the first progressive Arab state ... would be a huge undertaking, though, and maybe impossible, given Iraq's fractious history"). He grasped that the consequences of failure would be dizzying ("if done wrong, the world will never be the same") and that to succeed, at the very least, would require exceedingly deft execution on the diplomatic front as well as the military one. Yet he also noted that the Bush Administration was incompetent in at least the former respect, and recognized them as essentially a bunch of pathologically insensitive and hyperaggressive bumblers ("we are talking about nation-building ... [and] the Bushies seem much more adept at breaking things than building things").Perhaps Friedman is the most pathetic. He didn't buy any of the spin, he knew all the risks and seemed to realize it would probably fail and he realized that the Bush administration was not up to the task. Even so he supported the war for over three years and told us almost weekly to just give it another six months.
So even a Webelo-grade logician knows where to go from here, right? You connect the dots and conclude that while it would be very nice to get rid of Saddam, it would also be stupid and dangerous.
But somehow he still managed to come out in favor of the war. And if the whole thing weren't so tragically misguided, his reasoning would be worth a chuckle. Says Friedman: "something in Mr. Bush's audacious shake of the dice appeals to me." A nice ballsy gamble of a war. Sure, it could throw the region into chaos, bankrupt this country, and dye the fertile crescent red with the blood of civilians; yet an audacious war is like a red lollipop—who isn't powerless to resist it?