"They Told You So"
At last Krugman has written a column in yesterday's Times ("They Told You So") that I mostly agree with. At the time of the runup to the foolish invasion of Iraq several prominent political figures spoke out against it. Krugman cites Al Gore, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Russ Feingold, and Howard Dean. Typical for Krugman, these are all liberals. He fails to cite the paleoconservatives Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak, who were more tenacious and biting in their critiques than the liberal opponents of the war. There were also a good many antiwar voices in the far Left, but that kneejerk response was to be expected.
At the end, Krugman makes this telling comment. "We should . . . ask why anyone who didn't raise questions about the war--or at any rate, anyone who acted as a cheerleader for this march of folly--should be taken seriously when he or she talks
about matters of national security."
Indeed. We should also ask why several million people, sitting in modest dwellings as I do, saw through the arguments for this disastrous war, while the experts in DC and elsewhere, supposedly equipped with sources of information denied the rest of us, should have fervently supported going to war.
It is significant that liberal journalists (as distinct from a few courageous liberal politicians) are essential absent from this all-too-succint honor roll. The answer lies, I think, in the numerous studies--perfectly valid as far as I can see--showing that journalists were at least 90% Democrats. Despite much denial, these findings had begun to sting. So the journalists had become defensive, and defensiveness tends to impair judgment. This fact is well known. In the hysterical atmosphere that gripped the country after 9/ll journalists did not want to face the charge that their undoubted liberalism had made them unpatriotic. (There were, of course, some prominent conservative journalists, as I mentioned. But, ironically, unlike their liberal confreres this small body of people was divided--some were for the war, others against it.)
Then there was the temptation, all too palpable for ambitious charlatans like Judith Miller, to break a story--even when there wasn't a story.
Once a view, however mistaken, takes on critical mass by attracting many seemingly well informed adherents, it becomes seductive. Groupthink takes over.
Another factor was obliquely cited by Barack Obama in September 2002. "What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats." These weekend warriors were, of course, the Neocons. In this group a significant number were Israel Firsters.
With all the analysis that is rightly being undertaken as to why we were hoodwinked into undertaking this disastrous war, this factor is rarely discussed. As far as I can tell, Israel was the only country outside the United States where public opinion strongly supported the war. To be sure, Israel had genuine grievances against Saddam Hussein. We did not.
Now we have the curious spectacle of hearing Israeli leaders saying that their inransigence with regard to the Palestinians has nothing to do with our quagmire in Iraq. This is bull.
The appallingly successful effort by the Neocon cabal to manoeuvre us into undertaking a war reveals an important truth. A well organized minority can get its way over a confused and angry majority. We should not fall into this trap again. But since discussion of the undoubted role of the Israel Firsters remains taboo (it is "career destroying"), it is certain that more pitfalls lie ahead.