INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 42: Bret Stephens is lying about Iraq
THE WORST THING WE READ™
There Will Never Be an Honest Case for the Invasion
THIS HAS BEEN the week for unearthing the things people wrote two decades ago advocating the invasion of Iraq, to remember how glib and bloodthirsty and just plain wrong they were. Even if you were reading the atrocious discourse at the time, it's still startling to recall how bad it all was, and to see how many people are still issuing opinions on matters of importance today despite their complete failure of judgment back then.
Or, if you didn't want to root through old screenshots and archived posts, you could read a fresh new column from Bret Stephens in the New York Times. Stephens was in favor of the invasion when it happened, and even a decade into the debacle, he was praising the moral force of the arguments advanced by Michael Kelly, the most florid and bullying warmonger of the era, who died while covering the action he'd rooted for. Now, with 10 more years to reflect on what went wrong, Stephens greeted readers with the headline "20 Years On, I Don’t Regret Supporting the Iraq War."
Not personally regretting it is not the same as being right about it, and Stephens, after puckishly describing himself circa 2003 a "warmongering neocon," conceded that the people who do regret the invasion have some arguments worth listening to. Because he is Bret Stephens, the first objection he classified as "strong" was that our "government bureaucracy is slow, wasteful and frequently incompetent," and so shouldn't have been entrusted with the complicated work of rebuilding Iraq.
This was less a sincere reassessment than a bit of self-pardoning. Rather than admit that the Bush administration, which he supported, didn't bother to come up with a rebuilding plan before invading, he wrote off the botched rebuilding as a natural result of big government, which as a conservative he claims to oppose. From that angle, Stephens was right about Iraq, really, in essence.