I didn't get to the latest self-parody by Roger Cohen -- yes, he really thinks that accusing people who supported the war in Afghanistan of "Bush Derangement Syndrome" is an argument! -- yesterday, so a couple people beat me to it. I'll just add that when you're reduced to invoking random dictators from the past to justify an obviously failed war, you really should just stop talking.

Moreover, the historical analogies are inapt in critical ways. He claims, for example, that Hussein was "a Middle Eastern Pol Pot." Now, Hussein was an extremely bad dictator. But at the time of the invasion he was not doing things like, say, evacuating all of Iraq's cities and slaughtering the inhabitants, systematically killing everybody with eyeglasses or a college degree, intentionally letting large numbers of people starve to death or die in forced marches, etc. etc. And although from a moral perspective arguing about which bloody dictator is worse gets pointless very quickly, when deciding about military interventions, these kinds of distinctions are quite important. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge was a rare case where virtually anything would be better than the status quo. Iraq under Hussein, as we've seen, was not. And since there are any number of countries similarly repressive to Hussein's Iraq that Cohen doesn't want us to invade, establishing that a state is bad is insufficient basis for intervention.

But, of course, what Cohen is doing here isn't engaging in a discussion; it's just straightforward bullying. The point is to obscure any thinking at all about whether the invasion is justified. Once you've conceded the obvious point that Iraq posed no substantial security threat to the United States, you're left with trying to claim that the invasion was justified on purely humanitarian grounds. "The difference between the Iraqi hell of yesterday and the Iraqi hell of today is that the former was without hope," sighs Cohen. This invocation of the long-run appearance of ice cream castles in the air, of course, becomes impossible to justify when you consider the very concrete hope that could have been provided by putting a couple trillion dollars to other humanitarian purposes, and this without the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of lives with millions of others forced to live under some mix of repressive Islamism and anarchy. And Cohen has no argument to the contrary, hence the pathetic claims that if you opposed the war, you must be... soft on Hitler and Stalin!

This is just pathetic stuff, although it makes Cohen a fitting addition to the Times op-ed pages alongside David "The war was a Burkean project because the Bush administration had no idea how to accomplish its implausible goals" Brooks and Tom "Suck on this" Friedman. Since even they've bailed out, I guess somebody has to play the demagogic dead-ender.

--Scott Lemieux

You may also like