In the current New York Times magazine, war proponent Michael Ignatieff issues a mea culpa of sorts. He spends many paragraphs explaining how it is that academics such as himself often do not understand that ideas can have consequences in the real world, and then toward the end we get this:
We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.
Why is it that people who got the whole thing so wrong always feel compelled to take a swipe at that ever-reliable strawman, the Dirty Fucking Hippie (tm Atrios)? In fairness he does state immediately afterward:
The people who truly showed good judgment on Iraq predicted the consequences that actually ensued but also rightly evaluated the motives that led to the action. They did not necessarily possess more knowledge than the rest of us. They labored, as everyone did, with the same faulty intelligence and lack of knowledge of Iraqâ€™s fissured sectarian history. What they didnâ€™t do was take wishes for reality. They didnâ€™t suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too. They didnâ€™t suppose that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. They didnâ€™t suppose that America had the power to shape political outcomes in a faraway country of which most Americans knew little. They didnâ€™t believe that because America defended human rights and freedom in Bosnia and Kosovo it had to be doing so in Iraq. They avoided all these mistakes.
The line bout mistaking wishes for reality is at least on the money. Nonetheless, I still find the DFH swipe enraging. Was it ideology to note the PNAC statements detailing the need for a permanent presence in the Middle East, which predated 9/11 and all the lovely talk about liberating the long suffering people of Iraq by several years? And frankly, was it so utterly insane to note that there are vast reserves of, yes, oil under the ground in Iraq, and wonder if oh just maybe that might be playing into the decision somehow?
Ignatieff essentially promises to do better next time, but until he can admit to himself that the DFH’s out marching in the streets were right not in spite of their ideology, but frankly because of it, he still has a long ways to go.