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More Regrets

Nasi Lemak has another Iraq War mea culpa that captures an important piece of flawed thinking that I engaged in as well: "I didn't have to be an especially strong rational choice proponent to believe that elected politicians tend to try to avoid disaster, and that electorates tend to try to punish politicians who end up leading them into trouble." This made me drastically underrate the possible downside risks of the war. Two other points. One, as I've said before, a person of my generation got to watch a dreary catalogue of events in the nineties whereby there was much human suffering owing to American failure to use force (Rwanda), delay in the use of force (Bosnia), or hesitancy to expose our soldiers to risk (Kosovo). This created a predisposition toward "hawkishness" as a generic position. Once the debate was framed as "what to do about Iraq?" this inclined me toward the hawkish view. There'll be more on this later, but in retrospect I think that the most pernicious thing about the public debate in America is the continued propensity of questions to be framed around generic issues of "hawkishness" versus "dovishness" rather than the more relevant question of where should finite military and related resources be deployed.

Two, as my roommate at the time Jeff Theodore pointed out to me the other day, we were both bouncing around Harvard hearing all sorts of factually or logically deficient anti-war arguments. As this was the immediate context of our lives, it tended to harden our views in the opposite direction -- "look at all these silly anti-war people!" If we'd been hanging out in Red America, of course, we would have been hearing all sorts of silly pro-war arguments. In general, the person on the street does not have an especially nuanced defense of his or her favored stance on national security issues and the fact that the people on your street may happen to all think one thing is no reason to go adopt the reverse position. Meanwhile, the fact that the President of the United States was making silly pro-war arguments (others made much more convincing ones) lacked emotional immediacy even though, obviously, this should have been a far more relevant consideration.

September 18, 2004 | Permalink


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» Hawks vs. Doves from Lawyers, Guns and Money
When the implications are worked out, this means that there really are no "wars of necessity", and that every war is a "war of choice". The only thing left to debate are the conditions under which war is an appropriate course of action. Since militar... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 18, 2004 6:58:32 PM

» A Reading List To War from Pandagon
My path to hawkishness followed Matt's almost exactly. I read Love Thy Neighbor and thought hard about the horrors of Kosovo; I flipped through We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families and decided... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 18, 2004 7:46:39 PM

» No more apologies from Unfogged
Belle's got a post on her changing Iraq position, and it's spawned some interesting responses. If you're wondering-- and, really, who isn't?-- I endorsed, to some extent, her Reasons for War 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, which is not to say that I took them to be con... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 18, 2004 11:11:30 PM

» Flashback Iraq from Bradford Plumer
Ah, reminiscing about the pre-Iraq War debates. I really wish I could either a) flaunt my completely vindicated pre-war prescience, b) rake over the coals those idiots who supported the war, or c) cast in a tragic light the story of how my Kerry-esqu... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 19, 2004 5:58:41 AM

» White-Bearded Peaceniks from Seeing the Forest
in which Santa Cruz is "home of reflexive dovishness and factually incorrect tirades" and those who were opposed to the Iraq war are "white-bearded peaceniks." Meanwhile Matthew Yglasias writes rather academically ... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 19, 2004 2:13:32 PM

» And so, like waters from a fountain, they came tumbling down.. from yelladog
What's with all the mea culpas from all the liberal hawks on the same weekend? Is this some kind of model defense of John Kerry's path to opposition to the war in Iraq? ("First I thought this, then I thought... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 19, 2004 4:41:13 PM

» Past Hawkishness is Now Cause for Regret from Outlandish Josh
This is an important trend; one that's hopefully going to grow. Both Matt Ygelsias and Ezra of Pandagon have this weekend explained (regrefully) how they got to be pro-war. Both follow a similar path. The prior experience of bearing witness to Rw... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 19, 2004 9:35:03 PM

» Against Fear from Fables of the reconstruction
Elvis Costello, discussing his new release:"It’s more against fear than it is against war. ’Cause it’s the fear that allows the war to happen. And that idea is going through the record." Via Jim Henley at High Clearing. A series [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 19, 2004 10:20:15 PM

» Gift Basket from Tom Jamme's Blog
Sweet Blessings, a new Christian-based online shop featuring cookie bouquets, candy bouquets and gift baskets, opens with a campaign to donate a portion of all profits to Habitat For Humanity. The devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, while not a... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 7, 2005 3:18:04 AM