Thursday, November 16, 2006

Time for answers to the right questions

Tristero writing at Digby's makes a point I'm fond of: let's have less of those pundits who were so completely wrong, and a little more of those who got it right at the time. He also wants answers to some questions that are not being asked:
Indeed, Spencer Ackerman is quite right:
"Faced with a disastrous war, the most important consideration is not 'Were we wrong?' but 'Why were we wrong?' and 'How can we avoid being so wrong in the future?"
In fact, I said the same thing on October 18, 2003:
Bush's foreign policy, the too-late-to-save-us release of "America Unbound" and the bamboozling of Joshua Micah Marshall just before the war point to a very serious crisis. It is an intellectual crisis that gives credence to obviously terrible and self-destructive ideas. It makes them seem fit not only for academic debate, and not only for public discussion, but - incredibly -also fit for adoption as policy by the most militarily powerful country the world has ever known. It is an intellectual crisis that permits such long-discredited siren calls as America's "manifest destiny" to sing out once again and seduce nearly every class in this country into believing the clearly delusional notion that by prosecuting a clearly unnecessary war we could ensure peace.

How could this crisis have happened? I don't have a clue. I don't know how anyone could have heard what Josh heard and not think that the person who said them was a candidate for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. I don't know how anyone as smart and eloquent as Nicholas Lemann could understand the neo-con fairy tale so well and claim it was "breathtakingly ambitious" instead of screaming yellow bonkers.

But we are going to have to find out how it happened. Not to punish Wolfowitz, Perle and the rest of the self-described Cabal (although what they did was surely criminal) and certainly not to punish the media which, to be kind, fucked up royally for two years. No, we must figure out how this crisis happened so that we can prevent it ever happening again.
And now I'd like to add some questions to that list Spencer Ackerman has for The New Republic to address:

1. How come I, along with most of the world I might add, got it so right? Not only, "What did we see that that the official grand poohbahs missed" but also, "How did we know enough, and what did we know, to judge that Bush/Iraq would without doubt be a total disaster so clearly in the spring of '02?*

2. How can we hear from more people who got it right in the mainstream media? I don't mean me, duh, I mean the Jessica Tuchman Mathews of the world.

I think the second question really requires not only an immediate answer, but immediate action. The very same clowns are still in place for the most part, making a total hash of our national discourse. I'm not saying merely that we need knowledgeable liberals appearing regularly on tv, although heaven knows we need them. We also need real moderates, real conservatives, and real leftists - we got plenty already of real rightwingers, thank you very much.

Furthermore, we need the ignorant lunatics - I'm talking Bill o'Reilly and Robert Novak and Sean Hannity here, among others - marginalized. It is inexcusable that a president of the United States would give interviews to such people. It is outrageous that a man as morally bankrupt as William Bennett can still appear as a responsible spokesman on a so-called mainstream network like CNN. Etc. Etc.

* It's worth repeating again, as the "good idea to invade Iraq, too bad Bush was the one who did it" line has become the CW:

In 2002, when I first started to hear about the planned invasion, I was convinced that only a damn fool would take anything like that seriously. There was no chance in hell that good would come out of it. And let me be clear. It was not because the Bush administration was incompetent at implementing an invasion and conquest of Iraq that could have worked, although there was their incompetence to deal with, of course. It never could have worked. (And in fact, one would expect an incompetent government to take just such an incompetent idea seriously.) And of course, most importantly it was immoral and completely illegal.


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