Thursday, January 18, 2007

Waste of time

I've spent time recently at Asymmetrical Information and am flat-out depressed: Megan McArdle has not only come to believe that going into Iraq was a mistake (with which I disagree completely - none of the strategic reasons for doing so at the time have changed, as far as I can see), but has opened her forum to a bunch of ninnies who all just want to chant, "We were right, you war-mongers were wrong," incessantly. Now, whatever gets them through the night, I guess... but what I hate about Megan's original post is that its subject is, "I was wrong - discuss!"

It's possible, pig, as Westley said, that those of us who supported (and, in my case, continue to support) the Iraq invasion were wrong to do so. We can never know, of course, because we don't have a handy parallel universe in which to test the other case. It's certain that people at all levels have made mistakes in prosecuting, not the invasion, but the reconstruction/stabilization period, but that's no different from any other war or aftermath thereof. I can concede and in fact insist that a "postmortem," a debrief, a lessons-learned session of seriousness and length is appropriate, because how else can we avoid the mistakes in future?

But to provide nothing but an opportunity for snarky folk who think it's the height of wit to refer to Bush as Dear Leader to gloat - that's not only not helpful or productive, it's darn close to pandering in my eyes. Poor Megan... She lives and works in Manhattan, and the pressures brought to bear on her must be extreme, just through the course of her day. But I do so wish that she could've kept her confession to herself - because we're in Iraq and must make the best decisions we can, now, about what to do next. Providing fuel for the pitiful birthday candle that passes for "fire" among the particular doves she attracted to that post doesn't assist anyone in that effort.

Yeah. I know. We in the 101st Chairborne aren't going to be the deciders. But we, the American people, are going to have influence over our representatives, and the nature of the blogosphere combined with the nature of Washington are such that (a) we don't know how influential a few emails to any one Congressperson will be, nor (b) do we know how many blog readers are going to be influenced to send those emails by a blog like AI.

Naturally it also irks me on a sheer emotional level to watch valuable pixels being used for "Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah" with - still! - no consideration or discussion of where to go from here. Megan's critics took exception to her claim that just because "the doves were right," it wasn't through their perspicacity; they predicted all kinds of direness that didn't come to pass and were therefore correct only by chance. Those critics had a point of a sort; there were in fact anti-invasion people bringing up the possibility of insurgency and destabilization before the invasion. But - and this is where those critics' "rightness" falls right off the page - those were far from the loudest or most quoted voices, nor can I quite believe, listening to Megan's commenters, that they, the commenters, were stroking their chins and nodding sagely in agreement with Pat Buchanan back in the day.

And here's the next place where I feel confident in predicting that those critics will turn to the logic they just rejected: they'll say that since they were "right" about not invading, they're also right, now, about pulling out altogether. It Does Not Follow. If the common goal is a stable, moderate Iraq, Iraq the Model one might say, which, as a significant benefit, also serves as a demonstration that it's possible to be prosperous as a nation and part of the Middle East (and not Israel) at the same time, it's incomprehensible to me and to everyone on my side of this debate how leaving Iraq at this time will accomplish that goal. The only way that an early pullout appears to be a viable choice is if the goal is something else.

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