Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What do you mean "we," Kemo Sabe?

Political Opinions - Editorials on World Events and News: Our Tunnel Vision

Richard Cohen has not lost his touch. Even when he is so close to the truth that he can probably smell it, he manages to turn his column into a demonstration of his own intellectual macular degeneration.

His latest column (his work is still reproduced in my local paper) makes the new and equilibrium-shattering point that "we" failed in Iraq because "we" didn't know a damned thing about what "we" were doing.

(Next week, I predict Cohen will discover cell phones.)

But this is what got me:

I have some questions. When politicians and commentators detail all that the Bush administration did wrong, I wonder whether any of it really matters. Would things have turned out differently if we had done everything right? Was Iraq so "broken" we never could have fixed it? Was Hussein's despotism an avoidable tragedy, or was it, instead, a tragic necessity? I wonder about all these things. I tend to think now we never could have made it work.

Now, of course, everyone looks like an idiot. Bremer was an idiot and Garner was an idiot and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cheney and all the generals, with the exception of Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who called for lots and lots of troops and was sidelined. But these men are not really idiots. They were merely wrong, sometimes on account of arrogance, but they were doing what they thought was the right thing. They simply didn't know what they didn't know. They didn't know a damned thing about Iraq.
First , note the slippery use of pronouns -- "we" could never have made it work because "they" were idiots.

But there are more important things at stake than Cohen's childish psychopathology. Cohen has insufficient insight to even understand that what he is offering is a flavor of the "incompetence dodge." That is, his implicit claim is that the invasion of Iraq was a great idea undone by incompetent execution.


What Cohen refuses to look at, of course is the real insight that lies just past his observation that "they didn't know a damned thing about Iraq." So walk with me a bit Richard ... if they didn't know a damned thing about Iraq, wouldn't it follow that their incompetence extended beyond logistics and execution, and that the whole damned thing was always doomed to failure? Aren't smart people the ones who, like Socrates, know how little they know? And wouldn't it then follow that they were idiots after all, precisely because they acted in such total ignorance? And wouldn't it also follow that the parade of pundits who eagerly followed them over the precipice are idiots, too?

And since you have shown yourself to be such a dim bulb, Richard, allow me to complete the thought -- that means YOU were an idiot. And your complete failure to recognize or acknowledge your mistakes or the price we all paid for your own cheerleading confirms that this conclusion still applies.


Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

Yeah, blame sharing. We. That's weak, but if it makes him feel better, well, you know, by all means, carry on.

The "meme" that I've heard that really bothers me is that "we" never could have won this because it was an impossible task from the get go. Nobody could have done it, not even us. Or, perhaps, if anyone could have done it, we could have, but since we caouldn't, or apparently can't, it is therefore impossible. I guess it's better to set out to do the impossible and fail than to set out to do the difficult and mess it up. So people can feel better about "us."

The problem is it sidesteps the real issue which is that we never should have invaded. Even if things had not been so horribly botched, even if there were half the civilian deaths and only a handful of our troops killed, we shouldn't have invaded in the first place.

I wish we were having that debate today. Yes, yes, I agree, Bush and Rumsdfeld's planning was top notch and our military executed their fine plan to the letter and things are going swimmingly in Iraq! But I still think it was wrong to invade, and here's why...

Wouldn't that be nice?

12:05 AM  
Blogger RandyH said...

I was watching some show yesterday, maybe Hardball, and Pat Buchanan was on. I usually tune out his incessant screaming but they were talking about the conflict for the republicans who realize they're damned either way on this Iraq issue. He called them the "Blame and Run" crowd. For once, I thought he had some usable material. I am so sick of them calling us the "cut and run" crowd. I'd like to see our side start using this "Blame and Run" label for them. Because they are starting to realize that there is no strategy that can "win" this thing, whatever that means. And we have been telling them this all along. So naturally they're blaming us for their own idiocy. If we don't point out the fact that they are doing this, their accusations will probably stick.

7:45 AM  

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