Mea Not-So Culpa

Wow, the fact that some people got the Iraq war right and she didn’t really seems to make Megan McArdle angry:

Something else to keep in mind is that unless you are planning to die soon, you are going to get some major policy question badly wrong in the future, because no one is as smart as some of the war opponents have decided they must be. And every word that you type mocking the repentant supporters of the war will, I guarantee, be hauled up and thrown in your face. It is best not to fling calumny about other peoples’ decisions unless you are very confident that you will be able to bat a thousand for the next forty years or so.

No, Megan, a lot of people are as smart as those of us who opposed the war have concluded we are. I’m pretty sure no war opponent is confident that they’ll get every major policy question in the foreseeable future right, or even every major foreign policy question. But not all policy questions are made equal. Some are difficult; deciding whether to send troops to Somalia in 1992, and leave open the possibility of serious casualties, or to not send them, and leave a humanitarian catastrophe unchanged, was a really tough call for the Bush and Clinton administration. Deciding whether to order surgical air-strikes or a blockade against Cuba in 1962 was a really tough call for the Kennedy administration.
But some things aren’t tough calls. Some policy questions are really, truly easy. As much as this upsets war supporters like McArdle, deciding whether to invade Iraq in 2002 and 2003 was a very easy call, about as easy as deciding whether to invade Zimbabwe this year. Iraq had no relevance to our mission against al-Qaeda, its WMD program wouldn’t have posed a truly significant threat even if it had existed, its military was crippled since the 1991 war, and anyone who thought that trusting the Bush administration to unilaterally invade and occupy a 25 million person country would have positive humanitarian after-effects must have been truly delusional. It didn’t take a lot to be smart enough in 2002/2003 to reject the march to war. All it took was a rudimentary ability to reason and a basic ability to resist the conventional wisdom.
This isn’t to say that nothing war supporters have to say is valuable. Indeed, most of the bloggers whose opinions I read and value supported the invasion. But these bloggers all recognize that getting Iraq wrong was not an isolated mistake. They didn’t respond like McArdle does, throwing up her arms and saying “guess I missed that one”; they did things like write books completely re-evaluating their first principles about foreign policy. McArdle’s problem isn’t her support for the war. It’s her refusal to acknowledge the gravity of that mistake.

1 thought on “Mea Not-So Culpa

  1. I agree that McArdle is more defensive in this post than she really should be, but I don’t think that you are being quite fair. She linked to an earlier post in which she did substantially re-evaluate her thinking, maybe not completely but certainly more than a little bit. In general she seems to me to have her ears open, even if she is too “libertarian”, or rather too plutocratic and partisan, on some issues. I respect her judgment more than that of Glenn Reynolds, for whom she subs, or the other Instapundit substitutes.
    Besides, most of us are guilty of a few howlers. Certainly I am, although at the I don’t feel like dwelling on them at the moment. You might consider your old prediction that Hamas would recognize Israel, and then read this.

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