Friday, October 21, 2005

Smackdown of the liberal hawks

Lots of bloggers have cited to it, but I finally got around to reading the Yglesias/Rosenfeld piece inAmerican Prospect Online, "The Incompetence Dodge." Great stuff.

Most liberal hawks are willing to admit only that they made a mistake in trusting the president and his team to administer the invasion and occupation competently. An August 29 New York Observer article featured a litany of semi-chastened hawks articulating this sentiment. “Someone wrote that you knew who the surgeon would be, so you knew what the operation would look like,” said George Packer, New Yorker writer and author of the new book The Assassin’s Gate. “And there’s some truth to that. I was not as aware as I should have been of just how mendacious and incompetent the surgeon was going to be.” The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier added, “I think that it is impossible, even for someone who supported the war, or especially for someone who did, not to feel very bitter about the way it has been conducted and the way it has been explained.”

The corollary of these complaints is that the invasion and occupation could have been successful had they been planned and administered by different people. This position may have its own internal logical coherence, but in the real world, it’s wrong. Though defending the competence of the Bush administration is a fool’s endeavor, administrative bungling is simply not the root source of America’s failure in Iraq. The alternative scenarios liberal hawks retrospectively envision for a successful administration of the war reflect blithe assumptions -- about the capabilities of the U.S. military and the prospects for nation building in polities wracked by civil conflict -- that would be shattered by a few minutes of Googling.

The incompetence critique is, in short, a dodge -- a way for liberal hawks to acknowledge the obviously grim reality of the war without rethinking any of the premises that led them to support it in the first place.

I'm not sure I agree with all the larger conclusions drawn elsewhere in the piece. But on the narrow issue, what they say is dead on. And the whole thing is worth a read. The fact that the opening graf looks a lot like my opening graf in this piece is just icing on the cake.


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