On the day before the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, John Judis has an interesting reflection on “What it Was Like to Oppose the Iraq War in 2003.” He reviews the crazy consensus among “serious” thinkers (even of the so-called “liberal” sort) about the righteousness of the Bush administration’s obvious hard-on to take out Saddam:
In December of 2002, I was invited by the Ethics and Public Policy Center to a ritzy conference at an ocean front resort in Key West. The subject was to be Political Islam, and many of the best-known political journalists from Washington and New York were there. The conversation invariably got around to Iraq, and I found myself one of the few attendees who outright opposed an invasion. Two of the speakers at the event—Christopher Hitchens, who was then writing for Slate, and Jeffrey Goldberg, who was then writing for The New Yorker—generously offered to school me on the errors of my way.
More interesting to me was something Judis writes in the second paragraph in his article:
[W]ithin political Washington, it was difficult to find like-minded foes [of the plan to invade]. When The New Republic’s editor-in-chief and editor proclaimed the need for a “muscular” foreign policy, I was usually the only vocal dissenter, and the only people who agreed with me were the women on staff: Michelle Cottle, Laura Obolensky and Sarah Wildman. Both of the major national dailies—The Washington Post and The New York Times (featuring Judith Miller’s reporting)—were beating the drums for war. Except for Jessica Mathews at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington’s thinktank honchos were also lined up behind the war.
I wish he had paused to reflect on the obviously gendered language he uses here, as well as the clear gender divide he recounts here in pro- versus anti-invasion journalist and think-tank opinions (Judith Miller excepted). As I recall, anyone with half a brain, any rudimentary knowledge of history, and any fair assessment of the Bush administration’s competence (like me!) could see that the U.S. invasion of Iraq wa’s a doomed venture from the start. Of all of my friends and acquaintances in northern Colorado, none of whom have any connections or particular expertise in this area, exactly none of us thought the invasion of Iraq was a bright idea, or that the Bush administration could be trusted with anything more serious than organizing the hijinx at Bohemian Grove. Judis’s memories remind us once again about how soaked in testosterone the whole thing was. It’s worth reflecting on the gender divide Judis reports and how it was connected to the total foreign policy clusterfrack that was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.
You probably can remember some of them, too: wrong blogger Joshua Marshall, wrong New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, and wrong writers Christopher Hitchens and George Packer. Wrong Kenneth Pollack–who alone among this crowd has had the decency to retreat into the background–gave the rest of the rat pack cover for their support for George W. Bush’s second war. None of them had military experience. All of them treated the invasion of a sovereign country as though it were a stoned late-night game of Risk in their parents’ basement. (Only even stoned Risk-players know never to get bogged down in an Asian land war!)
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All of them were egregiously wrong, and yet they either retain their prominent perches as news analysts and opinion-makers or they’ve even been promoted. Why does anyone take them seriously any more? Why, when there are so few paying jobs for good writers, do these tools continue to spout their nonsense?All I can conclude is that there’s never a price to be paid by armchair warmongers. Warmongering is something that the other dudes who read, pay, and promote these guys like.
Being wrong in the right way, the way that pleases your paymasters, is clearly better than being right all along.