Return to Opinions

My Opinion of the Moment

How I Got It Right

There was a recent series in Slate, Why Did We Get It Wrong, in which writers described as "liberal hawks" tried to explain how they could make such a terrible mistake as lending their reputations to the sales campaign for the invasion of Iraq. There's certainly nothing shameful in some honest introspection after such a serious error. I congratulate these writers for being willing to answer this question publicly. Then again, much of the writing was so shallow as to illustrate the real source of the error. Perhaps there's as much to be learned from those of us who got it right, the roughly one-quarter to one-third of Americans who never backed the invasion. OK, let's be presumptuous and say there's even more to learned from how we got it right --- or at least how some of us got it right. After all, there were 80-100 million Americans who never fell for the sales pitch and while I won't pretend I speak for all of them, I can say what I was thinking.

So here are some thought processes that avoided the biggest mistake of the century, so far anyway (Iran anybody?). Take note that none of this required hindsight, and can be applied to future sales pitches for new wars (really, think Iran):

Finally, war has to be the last option. Everyone who resorts to war says they do so only as the last option, but that hardly means they're telling the truth. Too often, it means something more like, "We won't resort to war --- until we think other means won't work," or, to be more cynical, which is normally a safe position dealing with modern conservatism, the "last option" can mean, "We won't resort to war --- until we're ready to attack." No hindsight was needed since even before the invasion, the inspectors were finding nothing and were receiving cooperation from the Iraqi government. So perhaps the main lesson I would ask war supporters to learn is that "last option" really has to mean only after all other methods of resolving a dispute are exhausted. That alone would have been enough to stop them making the mistake that got them confessing their error five years later.

Return to Opinions

Return to Home