The Iraq Exposure Meter

Over at Kevin Drum’s, he’s welcoming the changing of the guard at The New Republic, complimenting them while trying to articulate what he thinks they are missing:

Like a lot of people, I find TNR to be a maddening magazine. At the same time, I also find it indispensable. …just take a look at their masthead. I’m not a fan of every single one of TNR’s senior editors (a title that’s essentially code for “staff writer,” not someone who actually does any editing) but 80% of them are top notch. It’s hard to think of any other political magazine that can match that collection of talent, and they consistently churn out a remarkable amount of top notch political journalism.

So what’s their problem? … Their writing is better than most of their competitors. Do they need to cut down on what sometimes seems like knee jerk contrarianism? Maybe. One Michael Kinsley is enough.

[ellipses mine – A.L.]

No, Kevin, explains, there’s just one problem.

Do they need to finally figure out — plainly and unambiguously — that the Iraq war was a mistake?

Bingo. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to happen, and as long as they decline to learn the obvious lesson from our current adventure in Mesopotamia they’re just not going to find a very big liberal audience. And that’s too bad, because an awful lot of good stuff is being held hostage.

[emphasis mine – A.L.]

It’s been interesting, in the week of my blogging hiatus (taking two hours every day to watch TV just blows your at-home productivity all to hell), to watch the CW solidify as Bush’s popularity declines, and right wing idols Buckley and Fukayama step onto the train and declare the war a catastrophe.

I’m wrestling with it myself.

What I’m wrestling with as a first step is my belief in the power of groupthink. In the power of the innate human desire to go along with the group, and the effect it has on people.

When I was in college, I was a pretty serious photographer. I made some money doing it; I sold some pictures (journalism to local and regional papers and sports photos to some calendars) as well as took some fairly serious classes. I took a class from a photographer named Joe Czarnecki – I’ve remembered his name because of what he did.

He told us that he wanted to calibrate our meters, and walked up to a wall held up his expensive light meter, and announced that it was an EV of – I don’t remember – and that it would thus be an exposure at 1/250 at, say F 2.8 (I’m making up the values).

One by one, we walked up to the wall, looked through our SLR’s or at our meters, and announces that yes, the right exposure for ASA200 film was F2.8 @ 1/250.

I walked up to the wall, held up my camera (I had a meter stuck to the top of a rangefinder Leica) and it read something completely different. I remember looking at it, and in what even then felt like an act of complete, if minor, cowardice, announcing that I agreed with the group within a 1/4 stop.

Several others came by, agreed, and then once we were all in, Joe walked back to the wall.

“Oops,” he said. “I must have made a mistake. It’s really F1.4 at 1/60.” And he looked at us with what I can only describe as contempt.

The room was full of mortified silence. Everyone else had done what I did.

Czarnecki explained that his point was simple. When our eyes disagreed with what other people were telling us, we should trust our eyes.

He had a larger point, about artistic vision, which he went on to make. But his basic point – believe your eyes and don’t give in to the pressure of the group is a memory that’s pretty well rooted in me; and as I see sensible people like Kevin Drum explain that the only thing that keeps The New Republic from being the anchor point of modern liberalism is this one issue where they just won’t go along, the image I keep having is of my professor leaning into the wall, holding his light meter, and going “Oops”.

36 thoughts on “The Iraq Exposure Meter”

  1. The New Republic proves that someone can’t be serious on serious issues and be a Democratic Party hack at the same time. You can be one or the other, but not both.

  2. A lot of people certainly want Iraq to be a mistake. What’s being expressed is not so much the conventional wisdom as the conventional _wishdom_ – it’s what they desperately want to be true rather than what has been proven so.

  3. I believe Iraq was probably a mistake. But the mistake was not the idea but the execution. I believed at the time of the invasion, and I still believe, it was and is absolutely essential to show the whole Arab (and Persian) world that the American “paper tiger” has claws. But we weren’t nearly brutal enough. We were entirely too concerned with collateral damage, and we tolerated interference from Iraq’s neighbors. And I have always believed that attempting to civilize, much less democratize, those savages is a fool’s errand. We should have set up a Saddam lite. That’s the only kind of government that works over there. Thanks to our half-assed conduct of the war and our immanent retreat from Iraq, we’ve only reinforced the Arabs’ view that America is a house of cards. Kill a few of us and we turn tail and run. And we’re going to pay a heavy price for reiforcing that perception.

  4. The New Republic has NEVER had a big liberal audience. Or a big moderate audience. Or a big conservative audience. Theyve never had a big audience period. They HAVE had a very influential small audience, due in large part to their diversity of opinion, and their unpredictability. As well as their shear intelligence. I dont think that has changed since 2003, nor do I think it will.

  5. Your point about groupthink is well taken, AL, but here’s a crazy idea: perhaps the “going along with groupthink” moment isn’t now, when people were turning against the war, but rather back in 2003, when most people were _for_ the war (or at least, not strongly against it).

    After all, the one way to be sure you’re doing the right thing vis-a-vis groupthink is to check and recheck and triple-check what your own eyes and reason is telling you. Back in 2003, we didn’t have much evidence about the need for war except what came from the “expert” – the Bush administration – and that evidence turned out to be largely mistaken.

    In constrast, Kevin Drum’s now got more than a little solid evidence to point at when he describes the sorry state of the war. But you’ve pretty much ignored that evidence, not even bothering to mention it, and make your arguments by way of a personal anecdote.

    All other things being equal, I know which of you I’d think was a victim of groupthink.

  6. “Your point about groupthink is well taken, AL, but here’s a crazy idea: perhaps the “going along with groupthink” moment isn’t now, when people were turning against the war, but rather back in 2003, when most people were for the war (or at least, not strongly against it).”

    Fair enough. But is it groupthink when you only support the war because its politically convenient like half the Dems in congress or is that something else?

  7. The New Republic has long been a magazine that has shown an extreme openness to conservative arguments on the issues, while an extreme loyalty to Democratic politicians. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that they prefer conservative policies put into effect by Democratic politicians. Not only do they trust Democrats to be more effective, but they are forever questioning the motives of Republicans who happen to agree with them on the issues and policy prescriptions.

  8. bq. Fair enough. But is it groupthink when you only support the war because its politically convenient like half the Dems in congress or is that something else?

    Another crazy idea, Mark – perhaps the Democrats in Congress supported the war not because it was politically convenient, but because, whatever their personal doubts, they wanted to believe that the President knew what he was doing in launching a major war.

    That said, I do see why it’s easier for you to cast aspersions on their political integrity, rather than simply admitting that they gave the other side the benefit of the doubt.

  9. “After all, the one way to be sure you’re doing the right thing vis-a-vis groupthink is to check and recheck and triple-check what your own eyes and reason is telling you.”

    Fair enough. But many aspects of life don’t have the sedate and repeatable nature of checking and rechecking your camera settings in class. War and diplomacy occur with little or no chance for controls and do-overs for checking and rechecking, given the long timeframe it takes for everything to develop and checks to be made. Indecision and limited attempts at stabilizing actions of a volatile situation can be rather costly. If you consider that this was what was done for over two decades with the volatile ME before it was deemed unsuccessful, perhaps it would be appropriate to at least try a different method for a comparable amount of time before declaring it failure?

    Signs of progress in Iraq are certainly two steps forward, one step back. But calling it a mistake seems not only impatient in a historically niave sense, but also short-sighted in rearview. Events were occurring in Iraq long before 2003.

  10. I think the liberal problem with TNR is broader than the Iraq War. TNR has been unapologetically pro Israel. No matter who is editor, that will not change since it comes from the owners. Because anti-Semitism, once known as the socialism of fools, is the only living remnant of socialism, TNR cannot be allowed into the liberal fold.

  11. After all, the one way to be sure you’re doing the right thing vis-a-vis groupthink is to check and recheck and triple-check what your own eyes and reason is telling you.

    We had the Brits and the Russians in general agreement with what the Bush Administration was saying regarding WMDs. Should we be lobbing charges of groupthink around the world at any nation with a spy network? At the UN for signing off on the resolution? If all nations involved sincerely believed their intel–as Bush seems to have–is it really groupthink (the conscious subjugation of your own judgement for the sake of pleasing the group), or just an honest mistake?

    Not to mention, when you say “we didn’t have much evidence about the need for war”, you’re only concentrating on a single justification–WMDs–and ignoring the larger geopolitical transformation Bush has been pushing since the beginning. I supported OIF back in 2003 because I saw it as a new way of fighting an old war, not because Colin Powell scared me by shaking a glass vial; I still support it for the same reason. (To clarify, I view the “War on Terror” as a cultural war roughly 30 years old–it’s only since 9/11 that one side has taken the conflict seriously.) I’m hardly unique, there are many others like me who viewed OIF as necessary for a host of different reasons. If Bush’s originally high support for the Iraq war stemmed from many different rationales, how can you accuse those supporters of groupthink if you knock out a single one?

  12. AL

    What an incredibly mushy thinker you are.

    #7 Chris absolutely skewers this silly piffle of a post.

    I totally agree with him that, if anything, “groupthink” is much more likely to have influenced you to support the war to begin with, given the lack of impartial evidence supporting the threat.

    Furthermore, I would think that “groupthink” could be keeping you from denouncing it now.

    It’s all about which “Group” you identify with and is therefore likely to exert the strongest influence over your view.

    And doesn’t your appreciation for the “power of groupthink” help to neutralize this potential influence, anyway?

    I don’t understand why someone with access to such a public forum would display such half-baked ideas so frequently.

    What is this, free psychoanalysis for you or something?

  13. Chris (#7)

    When you say “Your point about groupthink is well taken, AL, but here’s a crazy idea: perhaps the “going along with groupthink” moment isn’t now, when people were turning against the war, but rather back in 2003, when most people were for the war (or at least, not strongly against it).” you’re missing two points; first that the people I feel the most naturally aligned with as my ‘team’ are people like Kevin Drum, not people like – say, James Lileks. Even in the runup to the Iraq war, I was deeply conflicted for a long time (interestingly enough, the issue that drove me most to conflict was my concern that we didn’t have the sitzfleisch – the iron butt – to win what I saw then as a long war.

    So if I was going to get pulled along by groupthink it was certainly more likely that Kevin Drum and Phil Carter would do it than Charles Johnson or Mike Hendrix.

    I do have and have had for some time issues with the Democratic Party. First, that it’s not progressive enough, and that it tends to empower poverty pimps and self-satisfied suburbanites rather than the people who really need the help in 21st Century America; and second, that it makes up for the lack of progressive steak with a large dose of 1968 anti-Establishment sizzle. But I am and will be for the forseeable future, a Democrat.

    What I don’t see, given historic comparisons, is failure ‘on the ground’ in Iraq. I see challenge, and difficulty, and setbacks and progress. Looks a lot like history.

    And what I don’t see from the antiwar crowd is an array of facts that say that we have and are failing in Iraq – as opposed to not clearly winning or having won. Maybe I’ve studied too much history; the 1960’s riots in the US killed 300 people – a quarter as many as died in Iraq this week – and they seem closer in scale to what we saw given the most outrageous provocation than a full-scale civil collapse a la Beirut and Yugoslavia.

    A.L.

  14. Maybe I’ve studied too much history; the 1960’s riots in the US killed 300 people – a quarter as many as died in Iraq this week – and they seem closer in scale to what we saw given the most outrageous provocation than a full-scale civil collapse a la Beirut and Yugoslavia.

    Do you seriously want to compare the deaths from race/anti-war and other riots/protests over a period of a decade to the sectarian violence occuring over the past few days in Iraq?

    I’m sorry AL, but this just sounds a lot like “there were 700 ;murders in New York City last year and only 1100 servicement killed in Iraq” non arguments.

    Let’s use your Beirut comparison instead as I’m sure you’ll agree it’s at least a little relevant.

    True, we haven’t had instances as horrific as the Karantina Massacre, but we have had what would qualify as Black Sunday more or less.

  15. I agree with Robert Schwartz’s No. 13, but concerning Israel, not anti-Semitism. Liberal orthodoxy has become anti-Israel. The left is now quite anti-Semitic. Liberals aren’t there yet.

    TNR’s support of Israel is critical here. The war on terror makes it necessary for Americans to choose sides in the Middle East, and TNR has always been on Israel’s side. Liberals aren’t anymore, so TNR seems to be in a death spiral.

  16. “And what I don’t see from the antiwar crowd is an array of facts that say that we have and are failing in Iraq – as opposed to not clearly winning or having won. Maybe I’ve studied too much history…”

    Then look beyond the “antiwar crowd” for evidence.

    Try Francis Fukuyama and William Kristol, for starters.

    What are you saying, that you’ll only “join” them in denouncing the war if they can clearly articulate a credible reason, in your view? If not, you’ll continue to support it for fear of being accused of groupthink or something??????

    I honesty am having a harder and harder time believing you studied anything at all. It’s certainly a novel theory to advance, though, that current ignorance of fact is based on past studiousness.

    All I can say is “Wow”.

  17. bq. you’re missing two points; first that the people I feel the most naturally aligned with as my ‘team’ are people like Kevin Drum, not people like – say, James Lileks. Even in the runup to the Iraq war, I was deeply conflicted for a long time (interestingly enough, the issue that drove me most to conflict was my concern that we didn’t have the sitzfleisch – the iron butt – to win what I saw then as a long war.

    bq. So if I was going to get pulled along by groupthink it was certainly more likely that Kevin Drum and Phil Carter would do it than Charles Johnson or Mike Hendrix.

    Except that Drum et al weren’t against the war themselves at the very beginning. In March 2003, going along with the war wasn’t nearly the liberal vs. conservative issue it is now – the conservatives were (by and large) gung-ho for the war, and the liberals were (by and large) merely conflicted, unsure of the war but also unwilling to second-guess Bush at the time.

    That changed within a couple of months (largely thanks to the phantom WMDs) but the key point I’m getting at here is that the groupthink I’m referring to wasn’t getting pulled towards the Democrats or Republicans, it was the _whole country_ getting pulled towards invading Iraq. Drum was part of that, you were part of that, I was part of that.

    bq. What I don’t see, given historic comparisons, is failure ‘on the ground’ in Iraq. I see challenge, and difficulty, and setbacks and progress. Looks a lot like history.

    bq. And what I don’t see from the antiwar crowd is an array of facts that say that we have and are failing in Iraq – as opposed to not clearly winning or having won. Maybe I’ve studied too much history; the 1960’s riots in the US killed 300 people – a quarter as many as died in Iraq this week – and they seem closer in scale to what we saw given the most outrageous provocation than a full-scale civil collapse a la Beirut and Yugoslavia.

    I want to take a moment to point out that this statement doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny *at all*: the riots of the ’60’s were spaced _years_ apart, occured in a handful of extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods, and occured in a country with a far larger population. What we’ve seen in Iraq, in contrast, _has_ taken place in a week, _has_ killed many more people, especially per capita, and _has_ hit almost the entirety of the most important city in the country. If the street gangs of NYC had had access to heavy artillery in the 1970’s, and the entirety of Manhattan had descended into chaos over turf battles, _that_ might be an analogous situation.

    Perhaps the fighting will ease up, but I note that, if it doesn’t, we could be looking at ~65,000 dead within a year, and that certainly sounds like a war roughly on par with Beirut or Yugoslavia to me… if not worse, since this is occuring within the context of the greater war on terror, and has taken a huge chunk of our blood and treasure along with it.

    But all that said, I’ll play your game, AL: what metrics _would_ you find acceptible in determining that the war in Iraq has failed? Do we have to stay in country for 20 years, as allahthatjazz suggests above? or is there any set of conditions that could take place within the calendar year that might make you reconsider your position?

  18. Davebo – the thing you so casually dismiss – “True, we haven’t had instances as horrific as the Karantina Massacre…” is the core of my point; 1,000 – 1,500 were killed in a day in one neighborhood in Beirut. The fact that we haven’t seen acts like that – or that the govenment hasn’t enagged in acts like Hama – sets a threshold for what we are really seeing.

    Think about it; we’ve got 26 million heavily-armed people with a history of political and religious oppression and violence. One of the four or five most provocative things that could happen just happened. And a week later, all the parties are back at the table, doing politics.

    That doesn’t look anything like the Black September I have read about.

    A.L.

  19. Davebo — would you address Iraq’s death toll and chaos as being on the order of Sudan, where the US has NOT been involved? Or Nigeria, or Liberia, or the Congo, or Uganda, or Pakistan?

    Iraq is a mess because it’s society is a mess. Saddam kept the trains running on time by killing great whacking loads of people, with regularity, to fill up all those mass graves.

    Now he’s gone, 100,000 criminals he had locked up are on the streets, and the inherent conflicts between Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds are being played out with US Troops in the mix.

    The criticism of the War is that resources allocated to Iraq are not available to get rid of Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi. That we had other bigger fires nearer our feet needing our attention. Dems, including Drum, have not made that critique.

    Why? Because in their world every problem is solved by running off to Davos and skiing with Kofi and friends, paying off the right people, and thinking that solves the problem.

    Saddam was an unstable maniac who would not get with the program after 9/11 and continued to make provocations and show that the US could be defied with impunity by anyone in the Muslim world with sufficient will. He harbored terrorists who killed Americans, including Abu Nidal, the Achille Lauro mastermind, and various Al Qaeda people. He remained a constant threat to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and intractable in any discussion about WMD, inspectors, and terrorists. He had a long, more than thirty year history of acquiring WMDs, including nukes, Bull’s supergun, forbidden missile technology, and cheating various inspection regimes for years successfully.

    We could back down and prove we were weak and could be attacked with impunity. This is what Drum has advocated.

    We could forget about Saddam for the moment and get rid of the Iranians, Pakistanis, and Saudis (all together or only some of them) and intimidate the heck out of our enemies including Saddam and remove greater threats. No one proposed that at the time or since.

    We could get rid of Saddam and hope that it made our point: don’t mess with the US.

    These were our choices. All are negative. Fraught with peril. They are what they are.

    What is group-think about Drum and the Dem establishment is a failure to rationally discuss these choices and how it affects the US and the Party. The base group-think assumption is that negotiation solves everything because your enemy is just like you. Demonstrably not true for devout Muslims who do not share Western secular values and embrace conflict and war as part of a religious duty where God will provide for them, including victory.

  20. I think if anything the Iraq war proves that fighting terrorism as a crime would have been vastly preferable to doing it by the current overmilitarized approach that has extended our military to the breaking point and left us unprepared and nearly defenseless at home.

    Its a blunder on a much vaster scale that only the pathologically ignorant could make, or support.

    Like I said, even Francis Fukuyama is coming around to this view. He’s turned against the Bush doctrine because the Iraq war is proving it to be an unstustainable, dangerous and counterproductive defense policy.

    But it sure works well as a domestic political policy, don’t it? Just look at your arguments…they continually returns to a critique of the Liberals or Democrats position, while playing verbal games every time the Right Wing/Neocon/Republican strategy comes under fire.

    Newsflash: Dems ain’t the ones running the gummint, cowboy. Mark 9/11/01 as the point from which Bush has taken ownership of our national security. Anything, ANYTHING, that goes wrong from that point forward is on his shoulders, and on the shoulders of those who provided intellectual cover for him….you included.

  21. AL,

    I was referring to Black Saturday (and got my days mixed up) not Black September.

    There were 600 killed on Black Saturday and this has been recognized by many as the point in which the all out fighting between militias began.

    And it may be true that things are settling down. Although with another 55 reported killed today that’s an issue of degree.

    Watch the clerics. Sistani, Sadr et all. To their credit they publicly called for calm (although I think Sadr was probably singing a different tune privately).

    Remember, Black Saturday was in Dec. of 1975. the Karantina Massacre followed a month later.

    That’s not at all to say that Iraq is doomed to the type of violence that came to Lebanon. But I believe there is a very think layer of “civilization” preventing it from become similar.

  22. Wizener

    The Iraq war proves nothing in regards to fighting terrorism.

    Despite the claims otherwise, it had nothing to do with the War on Terror.

    It certainly has a lot to do with it now though.

  23. This blog really should be more concerned with the biggest down side to our actions in Iraq.

    And it’s here now and doesn’t need civil war to break out in Iraq for it to manifest itself.

    Convincing America that it must act, especially pre-emptively against an ill defined threat to America, is going to be 20 times harder over the next 20 years than it was this time around.

    And the fact is, sometimes it’s vital to American interests to act pre-emptively.

  24. #18

    I see no evidence that TNR is in a death spiral.

    Those who are discussing group think – TNR has published a diversity of opinions on the war in Iraq since it began. In particular they did a piece “Were we wrong” which featured lots of prominent pro-war liberals and moderates. Some had changed their minds. Some had not (despite unhappiness with specific Bush policies) All made cogent and fact based arguments, IIRC. What has happened at TNR was most definitely NOT groupthink. To press TNR to fall in line WOULD be groupthink – methinks.

  25. Davebo;

    If the Iraq war has a lot to do with terrorism now, but not before (and I agree with this), then I think it is safe to say it does prove something about fighting terrorism.

    Like, for example, that fighting actual terrorists is probably a better idea than just fighting for the sake of fighting.

    But even if you want to play the Neocon’s (old) game and say it was, it still fails on that score, for the same reason.

    That’s why I’m starting to like playing this game. I feel like the guy spinning the wheel at the Bellagio…and the Neocons keep betting the same number over and over.

  26. Group Think? More like demanding a loyalty oath. (or a “litmust test” as per David Fleck #3).

    If to be liberal today means anything, it is to be anti-war. That’s why Chris et al. want to strip AL of the “liberal” tag. That’s why TNR must appologize for its sins in order to be accepted back into the fold.

    Repent! Repent! The Kingdom of Hillary is at hand! All will be forgiven. You need only ask. Repent! Repent!

  27. (sorry – formatting for farked and I pulled the comment to fix it)

    Chris –

    The fighting is easing up today; go read the Iraqi blogs of the New York Times.

    What’s the metric? Militarily, ongoing, organized, large-scale fighting between militias. Politically, the renunciation – and not just a theatrical renunciation – by significant blocs from the political process.

    The real metric is the willingness of the US public to support the war, and what frustrates me (and I’m not yet articulating it) is the circular nature of the argument, which goes “we can’t support the war because the American people aren’t supporting the war enough to win”.

    I didn’t support the war because of WMD (or more precisely, the possible psoession of WMD by Saddam). Here’s what I “specifically said in March, 2003″:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/003200.php :

    The reality is that Clinton’s team was highly focussed on terrorism…but on terrorism as crime, as opposed to as an instrument of war. We focussed on identifying the actual perpetrators, and attempting to arrest them or cause their arrest.

    This is pretty much the typical liberal response to 9/11. Send in SWAT, pull ‘em out in cuffs, and let’s sit back and watch the fun on Court TV.

    I’ve been ambivalent about whether this is a good strategy conceptually, and looking at the history…in which we’re batting about .600 in arresting and trying Islamist terrorists…I have come to the realization that the fact is that it hasn’t worked. The level and intensity of terrorist actions increased, all the way through 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan.

    And a part of what I have realized is that as long as states – particularly wealthy states – are willing to explicitly house terrorists and their infrastructure, or implicitly turn a blind eye to their recruitment and funding, we can’t use the kind of ‘police’ tactics that worked against Baader-Meinhof or the Red Army Faction. The Soviet Union and it’s proxies offered limited support to these terrorist gangs, but they didn’t have a national population to recruit from and bases and infrastructure that only a state can provide.

    So unless we shock the states supporting terrorism into stopping, the problem will get worse. Note that it will probably get somewhat worse if we do…but that’s weather, and I’m worried about climate.

    What’s wrong with that? The reality is that even in a worst-case scenario such as I painted in Armed Liberal, our losses would be limited and readily survivable.

    But I don’t think our reaction would be. I believe that a sufficiently aggressive terrorist action against the United States could well result in the simple end of the Islamic world as we know it. I believe that if nukes were detonated in San Pedro and Alameda and Red Hook that there’s a non-trivial chance that we would simply start vaporizing Arab cities until our rage was sated.

    I’d rather that didn’t happen. I’d rather that San Pedro, Alameda, and Red Hook stayed whole and safe as well, and I believe the answer is to end the state support of terrorism and the state campaigns of hatred aimed at the U.S. I think that Iraq simply has drawn the lucky straw. They are weak, not liked, bluntly in violation of international law, and as our friends the French say, about to get hung pour l’ecourager les autres…to encourage the others.

    I really haven’t seen much to convince me that those points were fundamentally off. Has Bush done a perfect or even great job conducting the war? No. Lincoln didn’t either, until he managed to find Grant. Has he done a horrible job of selling the war to the American people and to the rest of the world? Abso-damn-lutely. Could it have been conducted better by someone the Democrats put up against Bush in 2004? Again, abso-damn-lutely. Was Kerry that person. Nope.

    But is what we’re seeing how horrible beyond what I believed we would face in 2003? Nope again. Maybe that’s why I’m not moved to change my position by what I’m seeing…

    A.L.

  28. In particular they did a piece “Were we wrong” which featured lots of prominent pro-war liberals and moderates.

    Did you get a chance to read that piece LH?
    Here’s a link

    I can save you some time and give you the spoiler. They don’t think they were.

    We feel regret–but no shame.” …“if our strategic rationale for war has collapsed, our moral one has not.”

    However there is something to consider here. When TNR offers a piece by “The Editors” what you are getting is an editorial by Martin Peretz.

  29. liberalhawk,

    You see no evidence that The New Republic is in a death spiral. My comment was based on this New York Times story today by David Carr:

    “… the magazine that Mr. Foer, 31, takes over is hardly on a roll. The New Republic’s circulation has dropped by almost 40 percent in four years; it cut its circulation and staff salaries after aggressively spending on the Web in 2002. Meanwhile, its historical role as a maypole for middle-way Democrats is under challenge from countless Web sites and bloggers. And one of the magazine’s major preoccupations — a search for the soul of the Democratic Party — would seem to require a lot of patience and a miner’s helmet.”

    The crucial factoid is a 40% circulation drop in four years – the four years after 9/11.

    There is reasonable grounds to believe that this is not merely correlation.

  30. #33

    1. Their circ, AFAIK has been up and down over the years. Did the NYT pick temporary peak? I wouldnt put it past them.

    Oh, and theyve put alot into their website, which hasnt done well. I think thats a business issue in approach to the net – not due to their ideological position.

    And again, I dont think theyve ever really been a “maypole” theyve been too quirky for that.

    #32 – not just the editorial, but the whole issue. See TNR is quite willing to publish pieces that contradict their editorial line, IF theyre well reasoned and well written. In fact the website’s columnist on Iraq, Spencer Ackerman, has been a consistent pessimist for a couple of years.

  31. bq. The fighting is easing up today; go read the Iraqi blogs of the New York Times.

    66 dead today. Less than the past few days, but not nearly good enough to declare crisis over, AL.

    bq. What’s the metric? Militarily, ongoing, organized, large-scale fighting between militias. Politically, the renunciation – and not just a theatrical renunciation – by significant blocs from the political process.

    Cool, your goalposts are on the moon! Or rather, even in the worst case quite a lot of those things would never happen, and I’d be surprised if you didn’t realize it.

    “Organized, large-scale fighting?” Do you want them to dress up in uniforms and march in formation? No, the various factions are just gonna hit each other bit by bit with death squads and car bombs. That’s all that’s needed for their society to fall apart, when you get down to it.

    “The renunciation by significant blocs from the political process”? Why would anybody ever do this? Regardless of if they _believe_ in the political process or not, as long as they pay “theatrical” attention to the process, they’ve got a PR weapon on their side. The minute one of them really does renounce the political process, the US is free to paint them as the bad actors and make them the scapegoat. So, no, nobody will do that.

    In short, no, we’ll never lose according to that list… but that’s not a definition of “lose” most people would agree with, and it’s a billion miles from actually _winning_.

    bq. I didn’t support the war because of WMD (or more precisely, the possible psoession of WMD by Saddam).

    Ok, so what? Groupthink wasn’t just limited to WMDs – the middle east domino theory was certainly part of the sales pitch, especially on hawkish blogs like this one. And at least WMDs are (somewhat) disprovable – according to your reasoning, the war can pretty much go on forever, because success is always right around the corner.

    And, again, I think this underscores the point of my original post. For all you’re accusing… well, pretty much two thirds of the country… of going along with the crowd without thinking for themselves, it’s you who’s clinging to (formerly) trendy ideas and largely ignoring the reality on the ground.

  32. Chris, be silly. No, I don’t expect 18th century Hussars. But neither do I intend to count serious violence that isn’t between large. centrally directed groups (like that in Lebanon in the 70’s) as a civil war.

    See my new post above. First, some serious questions about the casualty figures; but even accepting that the WaPo figures are correct, there’s a universe of difference between Lebanon in 1976 and Iraq in 2006. Is Iraq in 2012 likely to look like Lebanon in ’76?

    Well, it depends in large part on what we do.

    Will the social and political forces that have built up over nearly a hundred years suddenly dissolve? No they won’t. They will dissolve, because I believe that they are unsustainable. The only think to dispute is how.

    I believed in 2003 and believe today that a ‘small war’ had the opportunity to prevent a ‘big war’. I believe that today.

    Lots of people who I respected then and respect now didn’t believe that in 2003; I certainly felt that my decision on the war was more of an isolating one than a ‘coming home’.

    A.L.

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