But still, something must be said. Indeed, the editors of The New Republic have convened a “special issue” dedicated to pondering that sad country. It features, among other things, an unsigned editorial observing that “at this point, it seems almost beside the point to say this: The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war.” And, well, so do I regret my support for it. But what is one to do to make up for it? Mostly, nothing can be done. At least, however, when surveying a fiasco one can attempt to learn something about what went wrong and change one’s thinking in the future. Such a change in thinking is precisely why I, at least, having fallen for the Iraq boondoggle one time, was not seduced by the siren song of the Arab Spring. Those of us who chose not to get fooled again were, of course, heartily condemned by a March 2005 TNR editorial that espied a “certain grudging quality” to liberal takes on events in Lebanon. “So far,” they sniffed, Daily Kos “has featured only two short posts on Lebanon’s equally stirring Cedar Revolution — and both were notable mostly for their pessimism.” This was, perhaps, the measured version of the April 11, 2005, take offered by the magazine’s owner and editor-in-chief, Martin Peretz. He analyzed “The Politics of Churlishness” in a cover story dedicated to the proposition that “if George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others.” And, about sixteen months later, of course, these voices so eager to condemn liberals for not celebrating the new freedom of the Lebanese were the loudest in clamoring for Lebanese blood.
“As we pore over the lessons of this misadventure” in Iraq, explained the magazine in last week’s reassessment, “we do not conclude that our past misjudgments warrant a rush into the cold arms of ‘realism.'” Given what else is said in the editorial and in the special issue, it’s fair to interpret this as meaning that, in surveying the scene, they conclude nothing in particular. For my part, at a minimum I’ve concluded that it’s a mistake to entrust the cause of American idealism and Arab reform to a movement led by people who plainly loathe Arabs (Palestinians “behave like lemmings” wrote Peretz two weeks ago before observing last week that Iraqis now lack “even the bare rudiments of civilizations”) and couldn’t care less about their well-being except insofar as pretense to caring is a useful club with which to batter domestic political opponents.:
The term itself reflected an astonishing level of cluelessness. As I wrote at the time:
I’ve noticed that the premature triumphalists of the right have lately adopted the phrase “Arab Spring.” I assume this is a reference to the “Prague Spring” of 1968–the brief period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia which, as you may recall, was brutally supressed in August of that same year.
Small suggestion to my friends on the right: if you’re going to come up with a clever nickname for your triumphalist fantasies, you might want it to refer to, you know, an actual triumph.