BEYOND RECRIMINATIONS. Perhaps not surprisingly, I second what Matt said about Jon Chait's column on the incompetence dodge and don't have an enormous amount to add. (I should at least say that I very much appreciate Chait establishing the grounds of the debate pretty accurately and arguing in good faith.) Noam Scheiber's intervention today does help to underscore one point worth emphasizing. Scheiber says that "Yglesias and Rosenfeld set the bar on themselves too high."
To show that blaming Bush-administration incompetence for the Iraq disaster amounts to a "dodge," you don't need to prove that the Iraq project was impossible to pull off under any circumstances -- something I don't believe. You just need to show that the administration's mishandling of Iraq was extremely easy to foresee, which in fact it was. The administration basically advertised that it intended to botch post-war Iraq during the run-up to the war.
Scheiber elaborated on this point in a piece last year, and I agree with most of it. The reason Matt and I were interested in setting the bar higher than the "liberal hawks should have known Bush wouldn't conduct a proper liberal hawk war" point is that we were very much interested in making a forward-looking argument about future foreign policy issues -- what, on the level of doctrine, we think liberals ought to learn from the Iraq debacle -- rather than merely casting blame about bad judgment in 2002 and 2003 (we did some of that too).
The bar we set, I should say, wasn't quite the notion that "the Iraq project was impossible to pull off under any circumstances" -- "under any circumstances" is so expansive as to be unhelpful here -- but rather that there were no reasonable grounds on which to think the prospects for success were likely. Looking to the future, when the president and his team are out of office and perhaps a super-competent and credible Democratic administration is in power, there may be conflicts that arise where many see humanitarian grounds for an American invasion; our article was intended to make some arguments that could inform those future debates. (Speaking just for myself and moving slightly beyond what Matt and I argued in the piece, I'd say much of what we argued would speak to future conflicts where some seek to launch an invasion for fairly speculative strategic reasons as well.)
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