There is nothing more pathetic than someone who continues to grasp at his delusions after the real world has told him he’s a fool. A good example is the hack economist sited in the last post, who approvingly repeated a Wall Street Journal claim that a rise in teenage unemployment was caused by minimum wage increases.
Apparently someone pointed out to him that, um, dude, unemployment is up everywhere. He writes in a newer post, “It’s true that unemployment rates for all groups were rising over that period, and the rising jobless rate for teens might have been because of the general economic slowdown and not necessarily as a result of the minimum wage hikes, and that’s a valid criticism.” Actually unemployment rates for teens did not increase as much as unemployment as a whole.
Anyway, then the economist writes, “However … ” and follows this with a bizarre word salad of a “rebuttal” that boils down to “because I said so.” He still refuses to compare teen unemployment increases with unemployment increases among other Americans, including skilled workers, for the same time period, which the most basic logic dictates is the first thing he should have done before drawing conclusions of any sort.
Now we’ve got Marty Peretz, the man who turned the once-fairly-decent New Republic into mostly a suckfest, writing “Sorry, But The Verdict Is In On The Long American Excursion In Iraq. And It Is Favorable.” I’m serious.
First, a number of bloggers have already smacked Peretz for blatant racism against Arabs in this piece; see Jeff Fecke and Glenn Greenwald. I have nothing to add to what’s already been said about this, so I’m wading further into the article.
Peretz implies, but weasels around arguing directly, that the decision to invade Iraq will be justified by the eventual outcome — “Iraq is on its way to making its own inter-ethnic and inter-sectarian history, and it will be a relatively democratic history.” He bases the argument that invading Iraq was “right” on three “pronunciamientos” — his word, not mine –
- Gordon Brown said so.
- Tom Ricks thinks it’s too soon to evacuate. (To me, the question of when and how to leave is separate from the question of whether we should have gone in the first place.)
- Fouad Ajami said so. Fouad Ajami is the new Ahmed Chalabi. In fact, he’s an old pal of Ahmed Chalabi who no doubt noted the, um, opportunities to be had in playing the role of “good Iraqi” to delusional neocons.
More than anyone else, it was Chalabi who convinced the neocons that he and his Shiite religious friends would install an American-friendly democracy in Iraq, and they suggested that the US invasion of Iraq would create momentum that would topple the domino next door, in Iran. Unfortunately, Chalabi and his allies, including the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Islamic Dawa Party — that would be the party of Prime Minister Maliki, who supports the purge — were Iran’s friends and allies, and in some cases, outright agents. Oops!
Over the past several months I’ve tripped over a bucketful of arguments that the invasion of Iraq should be considered a success because Saddam Hussein is dead and Iraq is now more or less a republic. Yes, but as I remember our objectives at the beginning of the invasion were (1) destroying al Qaeda — didn’t happen — and (2) saving the world from Saddam Hussein’s dreaded weapons of mass destruction — which didn’t exist.
Basically, the apologists are saying that the invasion was justified because we’ve cleaned up some of the mess we made doing it.
Or, put another way, we wanted to set a fire in the fireplace and burned down the house, but we saved the photo album and the silver candlesticks, so it’s all good.
But in the great chess game of international relations, the truth is that Iraq was a bad move in our part. We were lured into taking a pawn so we could be checked by the rook. And after we were lured there was no “good” move left to us that wouldn’t damage us further.
Since the rest of Peretz’s column is just repeating the dubious claims of the self-interested Fouad Ajami, I want to move on to the comments. A commenter named roidubouloi wrote,
Let us grant for the sake of argument all of the wonderful achievements recited by Peretz above. If Bush, or Peretz for that matter, had said to the American people in 2003 that we will go to war in Iraq to achieve these ends at the loss of some 4,000 American lives and many more grievous injuries, tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost, a cost to the United States of roughly $1 trillion, the exhaustion of our military, and the erosion of our diplomatic stature in the world, including … our ability to deal with more threatening problems including terrorism, what do you suppose the reaction would have been? Anyone suggesting such a thing would have been branded forever as insane. That, however, is the most favorable possible description of what actually occurred.
I dimly remember that in some college political science course the professor told us that nations had a hierarchy of interests, and that sensible nations don’t rush off to war over every foreign policy objective. For one thing, costs and risks have to be weighed against potential gains. The history of human civilization is littered with once great nations that exhausted themselves through war.
So sensible nations only go to war when the survival of the nation and its most vital institutions are facing a real and present threat. They don’t go off to war, suffer the loss of lives, weaken the economy through debt, deplete the military, and erode relations with other nations because some tinpot dictator on the other side of the world who was no direct threat to us is a bad guy who once insulted the President’s daddy.
No, the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq are not a “success.” They are a fail. The only thing history has to determine is the size of the fail.
Other stuff to read, unrelated: the New York Times, “If Reform Fails,” and Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman, “Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine?“