Aug 072006

One problem with blogging is that anyone can read your archives and see what an idiot you were. I will spare you the trouble.

  • I used to be a race skeptic. Eventually a cursory reading of Cavalli-Sforza convinced me how wrong I was. The History and Geography of Human Genes is a careful and scholarly demonstration of what everyone already knows: that humans once wandered the earth in small tribes, that these tribes had distinctive genetic profiles, and that they tended to breed together, increasing their differences from other tribes, which are still plainly visible today. (In a few wealthy places miscegenation has begun to attenuate this process, but Dinesh D’Souza’s wishful thinking notwithstanding, it will not be reversed for a long, long time.) The fact that we cannot say how many races there are does not render the concept invalid; it has fuzzy boundaries, like many concepts. If you need a definition, Steve Sailer’s “an extended family that inbreeds to some extent” covers the territory just fine.

    All of this is doubly embarrassing because I was perfectly willing to treat race as a valid category when it suited my purposes.

  • Deep Throat was “obviously” a composite. Obviously. Good thinking there Cool Breeze.
  • Animal rights. I got in a lather here and here about how moral agency distinguishes humans, who have rights, from animals, who don’t. I must have understood “moral agency” then; I don’t now. Agency and rights, I now believe, are constructs. They come in handy, to be sure. We need good alpha approximations to adjudicate claims that would otherwise be too messy. I still think rights are a fine idea, but I won’t get all ontological about them the way I once did.
  • The war. This is the big one. On the one hand, I write: “Human beings are good at estimating first-order consequences, notoriously poor with second order, and the third order is like the third bottle of wine: all bets are off.” On the other hand, I support a long-term, insanely complicated geopolitical strategy to democratize the Middle East, which entails foreseeing third- and further-order consequences up the wazoo. The U.S. government has not done very well at it. Surprise! But what was I thinking?

    I was thinking, first, that Saddam Hussein was a really bad guy. Knocking over the occasional tinhorn despot, if only to keep the rest of them on their toes, has a superficial appeal. When your target despot rules a slapped-together country encompassing three perpetually warring ethnic groups, any two of which can agree only on the necessity of annihilating the third, then it may not be such a hot idea. Should I have seen what was coming? No. Should I have seen that I could not see? Damn straight.

    There was also a certain haste to blame America in the anti-war arguments that bothered me. I have no desire to discourage self-criticism, least of all in this post. But even Jim Henley, who among the long-time opponents of the war most closely resembles a responsible adult, has not exactly emphasized the horrors of a culture that treats suicide bombers like rock stars and stones homosexuals to death. These very horrors, ironically, undercut the case of the warbloggers, who harp on them. Surely the least likely people to successfully impose your political ideas on are those whose core values are utterly alien to your own. You end up just killing them instead.

    I can also go along only partway with the classically libertarian “health of the state” argument. Yes, “the Pentagon is the Post Office with nuclear weapons.” And yes, war is the health of the state. But the man who said that was a pacifist, and only a pacifist could regard it as dispositive. War in Iraq? Health of the state. World War II? Health of the state — as anyone who has tried to rent an apartment in New York City can tell you. Civil War? Health of the state for sure. Should we not have fought them on that account?

    Of course the current Administration has seen the state flourish. It has attempted to arrogate to itself the power to suspend habeas corpus for U.S. citizens (Padilla) and to deny the presumption of innocence to the accused (Hamdi), with only feeble objections from the judiciary. It has decreed a “War on Terror,” which is in effect a permanent war. Health of the state is one thing, and permanent police-state powers are something else.

    The anti-war people were right, and I was wrong, and I hope my caveats do not sound too churlish.

Update: Will Wilkinson comments.

  33 Responses to “Mulligans”

  1. Actually I don’t recall you ever voicing support for democratization on here — you even argued against it as a justification. In any case I think you’re giving far too much credit to “the anti-war people”: I should hope it doesn’t need pointing out that you being wrong does not imply that they were right. Frankly everyone looks rather stupid at this point, as is so often the case when dealing with the contigencies of history.

    For much the same reasons, I am highly skeptical of smug I-told-you-sos offered without a verified paper trail and my opinion on Iraq is much the same as Mao’s opinion of the French Revolution. But getting rid of Saddam would have become necessary at some point, one way or another. The when and the how of it left plenty of room for reasonable debate, but that inevitability needs to be kept in mind.

    Now that you mention alpha, can I dare to infer that the project hasn’t been permanently mothballed? Whither Bourbaki?

  2. I’m not a fan of Sailer’s definition; we can do better. I like Steve Hsu’s: represent each individual’s genome as a point in a space of extremely high dimension, and define a race as a cluster of points within some radius. This has the virtue of precision that Sailer’s lacks, while acknowledging the clinal nature of race.

  3. I never advocated democratizing the Middle East but I did more or less advocate “capitalizing” it. I wrote several posts that were definitely sympathetic to war, even as I was skeptical about some of its justifications. I was wrong, even as I continue to be skeptical about some of the arguments of people with whom I mostly agree.

    Sailer qualifies his definition as “informal”; Hsu’s is more precise but explaining n-space was beyond the scope of this post. But, in the spirit of the thing, you’re right! I’m wrong.

    Alpha will return. Bourbaki and I have plenty left to say. But I need to reacquire a few of my readers before I drive them all away again.

  4. It’s humbling, isn’t it?

  5. Just as an exercise, what do you think would have been a better course of action WRT Iraq? Myself, I think the strategy of buying off dictators (e.g. Baby Doc Duvalier) is highly underrated.

  6. For a fuller explanation of my definition of a racial group as “a partly inbred extended family,” please see my essay “It’s All Relative.”

    The Hsu-Godless Capitalist attempt at a definition isn’t bad, but it runs into most of the usual problems with top-down attempts at defining races — e.g., what radius?

    My definition, in contrast, is enormously scaleable (for example, it explains why the tradition of cousin marriage in the Middle East means the societies are riddled with nepotism and clannishness). It’s easily understandable, and it’s basically how normal people already think.

  7. Steve,

    What radius would depend on the needs of your analysis — just like “family” and “species”. Your analogy with “region” in the article is very apt in that sense. For getting the gist of the concept across to a non-numerate person your definition is “good enough for government work,” and the two can usually be used interchangeably. I just like Hsu’s better for its clarity and the fact that it puts the focus directly on the genome.

  8. But putting the focus directly on the genome is missing the point, which is that the focus should be on genealogy.

  9. To answer Matt’s question about what we should have done, I’m not sure, in retrospect, that we should have done much of anything at all. Sure, Hussein would still be in power, he’d still be making lots of noise, the U.N. would still be issuing pointless and pusillanimous resolutions. Most ordinary Iraqis would be, arguably, worse off. That would all be irritating. But America would be a couple thousand soldiers and many billions of dollars in the plus column.

    Duvalier wasn’t “bought off,” exactly; he was merely allowed to flee with his stolen money, which he later apparently lost in divorce. Where a military coup fails, the vindictive ex-wife succeeds.

  10. You put something a strange way and I thought I’d ask what you meant by this quote: “These very horrors, ironically, undercut the case of the warbloggers, who harp on them. Surely the least likely people to successfully impose your political ideas on are those whose core values are utterly alien to your own. You end up just killing them instead.”

    Here I took you to mean that conservatives of various stripes and libertarians of a conservat-y bent were not the best ideological shock troops to go setting up gay bars at gunpoint using US troops as proxies. And if so I take your point.

    But you also seem to maybe mean just Americans being aliens imposing values on a group of theo-tards (I have copyright on that phrase. You use it, you pay me three cents, US), and thus mutilating our grab bag of liberal democratic “values” in the bargain. And if so, well, I take your point there too.

    So which was it? A neo-con-y point or an American point? Sorry to be so grammatically ignorant here. It just seems you ran over an interesting point at 40 mph over the speed limit and I’d kinda like you to expand the thought. Maybe in another post?

    By the by, Cosh was right about you (I came here yonderly from Cosh-way); this is the best weblog around. You contain and exhibit the qualities, virtues, and beingness of rocking. Nice blog, whoever you are (I can read your whole blog, but am too lazy to look your name up).

  11. Better, I suppose, that you read the post than the signature if you insist upon reading only one.

    I was thinking more of your second than your first point. You often see people arguing in one sentence that radical Islam (or Islamo-fascism, or Wahhabism, or theotardism, or whatever you like) is awful, and in the next that Iraq is a suitable candidate to become a nice, liberal, pro-Western democracy. To believe that you have to believe that the garden-variety Islam practiced by essentially the entire population has nothing in common with the nasty, radical stuff. I see no evidence that this discontinuity exists.

  12. Steve,

    Hmm. Why?


    Huh. Never took you for a nationalist. Sheesh, you think you know a guy…

    In any case, you’re still left with the question: “and then what?” The sanctions regime slowly crumbles, Saddam eventually resumes his nuclear program, continues stomping the throats of Iraqis, financing terrorism, and so forth. Then when he dies one of his sons takes over and the real fun begins. If you want to see what Iraq would have looked like in under 10 years, look at North Korea now and then add petrodollars. That is a rather less appealing thought than the current state of things.

    As far as Islam and democracy goes, how do you explain Turkey?

  13. Actually reading at the signature at the end of the post- you philosophers are clever and wily ones, with sorcerer’s ways.

    Anyway, as I said I take the point either way. I agree, and had a similar reaction to the war: it didn’t seem entirely logical rendering them neandertal’s with dish-towel technology and then budding demoratic republicans in the next breath, but the sheer stupidity and shredded reasoning of the anti-war crowd was really off putting. I do mean immensely off putting, as in actively repellant. I remember the ANSWER protests thinking “there is nothing a gathering of communists and theocratic (and regular) fascists could possibly be right about”. Surely if there was a place in the universe where right was, they were in the place it was farthest from. Well, I’m glad my logic was so compelling.

    I still don’t know, though; I’m the guy who’s going to that level of Hell Dante reserved for people sit on the fence about the important issues of the day. I’m still not certain about whether or not mohhamedans can be held together in a democratic society- it’s probably not the best time to use this as an example, but Lebanon seemed to have a similar tri-partide situation, and for a while it looked like it was working. And then there were the Kurds, who seemed to act adult-like when given the chance, and under trying circumstances to boot. And a couple of the smaller UAE type places seem to keep various quarrelling ethnicities together. It just seemed reasonable that it was possible. Hell, it might have been and we just messed it it up, or rather the nucler post office did.

    But on the other hand, the average muslim seems crazier than Whitney Houston in whitdrawl and utterly riven with conspiracy theory level politics that would embarrass the average John Bircher, so maybe that’s just pollyannish inductive reasoning on my part. Oh well, it’s not like anyone’s asking our opinions in the Pentagon or the Cabinet. And there’s the problem that they’d had to have asked us three years ago.

    Oh well, live and learn. Or die in a messy war and learn anyway. Or, well, considering Vietnam, maybe not even that. Anyway, good point about the average Muslim sensibility, Mr. Haspel. Your site is my new favorite. I’ll tell others.

  14. Re: Baby Doc, you’re right — “bought off” was a misleading term and he might not be a perfect example. What I have in mind is offering dictators and their progeny a choice between A) being allowed to to run off into affluent exile with guarenteed immunity or B) being hunted down like dogs and shot in the street. We’ve never seriously tried this strategy, probably because option A offends everyone’s moral sensibilities, but all in all making it official policy would probably be more cost-effective in the long run.

  15. Dear Mr McIntosh,

    You bring up a good point: “In any case, you’re still left with the question: “and then what?” The sanctions regime slowly crumbles”

    Mencken, my patron saint, made the point that most people don’t seem to be able to grasp that there are problems without solutions. I add that there also problems with only bad answers, which this seemed to be. It also seems to be happening again with Iran.

    It seems to me that both sides of the Iraq question have a perfectly compelling and rational points about the war, which is why I’ve been sitting like a deer in the headlights when someone asks me to take a side.

    I honestly didn’t see a possible good ending to a war with Saddam, at the same time I didn’t see how it could possibly have been avoided. He was demonstrably insane as well as a capable regional power, a type of person most left-liberal and progressives seemed almost entirely incapable of believing could run a country.

    When ascribing motives to Hussein there was almost always an assumption of basic rationality which was demonstrably wrong, prima facie as well as in analysis (ironically, this problem was also prevalent in the so-called “realist” school of thought as well…hmm). It’s hugely dangerous to assume more rationality in a powerful actor than they actually possess.

    I think it’s wrong, even though I get the point, to say things would certainly have been worse. For one, if Bush hadn’t prosecuted the war and instead backed off, he wouldn’t have been the pariah he is now and may have been able to not only get a lot more concessions for other related strategic matters in the Mid-East, but it wouldn’t have been assured that the political Left in the EU and US would be objectively (if not subjectively) pro-terrorist. I’m not one of those happy fools who think the US “lost compassion” because of the war – the anti-American crowds in Europe and Americas are a permenant feature- but I do think it would have put off the development of the Gaullist school throughout Europe and severely restricted the development of the so called “non-aligned” parties.

    Like I said, no good options.

  16. What I’m saying is that long-range projects like democratizing the Middle East don’t figure to be alpha-optimal, and that even if we restrict our discussion to Iraq and America — which is probably the best alpha case that can be made for the war — they probably still haven’t been. “Fight wars only in self-defense” sounds nationalist but is in fact a good general rule for staying out of trouble.

    I will go so far as to say that I value the lives of random Iraqis less than those of American soldiers, simply because the latter are considerably more likely to make large alpha contributions than the former, for all kinds of reasons, environmental and otherwise. If this is nationalism, then nationaliste, c’est moi.

  17. James,

    No, no good options. But better ones than have been chosen, surely — since you mentioned Iran, poking them in the eye from day one has been the opposite of wise strategy. I think the model pursued with Iraq should have been more like Yugoslavia — everyone can agree Saddam’s a really bad guy, so let’s all agree to get rid of him one way or another. Instead the rhetoric was willfully beligerent “my way or the highway” stuff from the get-go, and the focus (i.e. on WMD) was all wrong. Bush had the right idea but stumbled out of the gate and never recovered.


    I respect that you have the courage to bite the bullet, but you do realize that coming out and saying “some lives are more valuable than others” opens up a rather large philosophical can of worms, neh? Much like the assumption of unbounded rationality in economics, the assumption of a priori equal moral worth in ethics happens to be false but 1) gets the right result most of the time and 2) is required for tractability. Abandoning it would require having something better — which you have yet to provide. Can’t beat something with nothing.

    If alpha theory can give better foreign policy guidance, I will be impressed. If the answers it gives are as miraculously simple as “fight wars only in self-defense,” I will be extremely skeptical.

  18. Well that’s fine and all, but we were talking about the Saddamist problem. I appreciate you want engagement with the Iranians, but I don’t really have a WayBack machine set for 1979 in my back pocket. As for “let’s take Saddam out with everyone’s permission”, eh. I dunno. I’m not sure it could have been done with Russian and French oil contracts under hoof. Clinton asked real nice a couple times and rattled his sword alot and got nowhere. You seem to be replacing one what-if with several other, only partially related ones. Yeah, it seems nice if things’d turned out differently, but they sho’ didn’t.

  19. James, Matt, and Aaron,
    Sorry for jumping in late. It seems to me that Iraq had been de-fanged before the US invasion. The UN sanctions along with US enforcement of the no-fly zones and the UN inspections were working, dammit. That Saddam Hussein posed a threat to anyone outside of Iraq’s borders, that Iraq had WMD, that Iraq was even remotely connected to Al-Qaeda, these are things that the average American seems to belive. Can somebody give me a reaonable explanation for invading Iraq, given that the above were and are all false? Introduce democracy? Heh, I’d like to see the timetable for that. Was any of this worth the US alienating some of its best friends? (I’m a Canadian. We were with you in Afghanistan, but we could not abide by-passing the UN with Iraq. Of course we now have our own right-winger in power, lending credence to the ‘Canada is a few years behind the US’ trope.) Damn, I live in Japan. If the US wants to contain someone…
    Aaron, I’m afraid the complexities of Alpha are a bit beyond me (I have a (limited) background in philosophy, but I haven’t studied formal logic; my math/physics skills are also pretty weak). Anyway, in what I *have* read, you refer to “the objectivists” as though you want to distance yourself from them (or at least distinguish yourself from them). Can you give me a concrete example of how an ‘Alpha-ist’ might act differently than an objectivist in some ethical/moral situation (ie. like Matt, I found your “…simply because the latter are considerably more likely to make large alpha contributions than the former…” comment somewhat troubling.
    I really like this site, by the way. I hope you post often.

  20. James,

    Remember, those French and Russian oil contracts don’t require Saddam’s presence; merely some entity which will honor them. The problem with buying allies is that they can become paid enemies just as easily. That’s really the problem with Bush — not enough Machiavelli in him.

  21. […] Aaron Haspel has the best mea culpa I’ve seen about being on the wrong side of the war. I especially liked this bit: There was also a certain haste to blame America in the anti-war arguments that bothered me. I have no desire to discourage self-criticism, least of all in this post. But even Jim Henley, who among the long-time opponents of the war most closely resembles a responsible adult, has not exactly emphasized the horrors of a culture that treats suicide bombers like rock stars and stones homosexuals to death. These very horrors, ironically, undercut the case of the warbloggers, who harp on them. Surely the least likely people to successfully impose your political ideas on are those whose core values are utterly alien to your own. You end up just killing them instead. […]

  22. As far as I can tell, kykplos has added nothing except boilerplate (“sanctions were working, dammit”, whichg is why Abu Nidal himself was in the Hotel Hilton, of course. The ‘nothing to see here folks, move along, move along’ theory of international relations). The rest just seems like a bullet point from a random The American Prospect article.
    As far as the philosophy, objectivism bores me to tears. It’s like chaos theory; it seems on first glance to have all kinds of possibilities…it turns out to be pretty hollow as time goes on.

    As for Macintosh, uh, I dunno. It seems a little…improbable that we’d be divying up contracts before we took a country over. I suspect there are some other real, real bad problems with that approach too.

  23. Some excellent evolution there, God. (Sailer also helped to convert me, though I was clear that race meant something before he challenged my thinking.)

    I’ve little to quibble with, but this: I say “war is the health of the state” all the time, and yes, I mean it to be “dispositive”, but not about war. The saying doesn’t say anything about war being good or bad. Rather it says what war does to the state; if you are for the state, logically you should be for war. If you are against the state, logically you should oppose war. (To their credit, the left generally does not follow the logic of this argument.)

    When you say “permanent police-state powers are something else” than the health of the state, no, you are 100% wrong. Extraordinary and ever increasing police powers are exactly the sort of thing that “the health of the state” means.

    It also does mean, of course, huge standing armies used to crush the resistance of other countries. But it operates prior to the flashy wars. There would have been no “civil war” in America if the North had let the South leave. The Northern elite understood that war would mean an increase in their own personal power; and this was part of the reason they decided to fight. There would have been no WWII without WWI, a mistake, nor would WWII have involved America but for FDR’s treacherous machinations to involve us. FDR certainly understood that only by getting America in the war could he achieve the policy goals he wanted.

  24. Besides the trillion or so dollars we’ve cost ourselves and the human costs, going to war with Iraq was a terrible idea for about 46 other major reasons. Warring with Afghanistan, which was also a silly war in terms of US strategy, has lost any priority and resulted in very little good. I am skeptical that we have acheived much of anything there, at this point, with the regime change, and I also think it will revert back to most of what it was if it has not already, with patches of chaos riddled in to boot. Iraq is a shithole of an operation, it is badly run, was badly executed, and revealed great flaws in our military and our ability to wage war. And for nothing, really. It also revealed what anyone who can understand this site already knew, that the “leaders” in washington are savage, even ruthless, but that they are not really very bright. I could put together a better presedential cabinet from rotten wood.

    Saddam being “deposed” was not inevitable Matt.

  25. Are you acknowledging error because you want to, or because you need to? If it wasn’t the war, but some small, throwaway comment you made a few years ago that you happened to find counter-evidence for, would you have brought it up?

    You’re still just a fucking waste of a brain. I understand why Bill James couldn’t stand you. You know you’re going to be in the ground in another few decades, right? Why waste it all?

    I will rewrite your last bullet point for you (and by the way, titling this post “Mulligans” is inappropriate – are you sure you know what the term means…?):

    “I was wrong about the US invasion of Iraq. Completely wrong. I was wrong to think it was a good idea, I was wrong to think it would be successful, and I was even wrong to think it was the morally correct thing to do. Any undertaking that is guaranteed to kill tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people should be an absolute last resort. I’m a bit older now, and a bit wiser, and I want to apologize to everyone I insulted because of their opposing views on the subject. In short – you were right, and I wasn’t.”

    There you go. Not so hard.

    Best of luck with your progression.

  26. Well, what brought that on? I don’t recall insulting anyone because of his opposing views on the subject. I am quite sure I never called an opponent of the war “a fucking waste of a brain.” Rather than simply saying I was wrong I offered reasons. Reasons appear to bore you.

    A mulligan is a do-over. You take it back and try again. Same here.

  27. You don’t recall insulting anyone because it was a few years ago. I remember it well. It wasn’t, of course, direct ad hominems; rather, your more usual set of passive-aggressive take-downs.

    I’m not calling you a fucking waste of a brain because you supported the war. I’m calling you a fucking waste of a brain because you’re a really bright guy who can’t just say “I was really fucking wrong” but has to include a bunch of bullshit caveats. You don’t find the phrase “who among the long-time opponents of the war most closely resembles a responsible adult” provacative? I am not passive-aggressive, so this is how I word my response: Fuck You. Someone who parses written English at your level surely understands that the above phrase, which you wrote, is an insult to just about everyone who opposed the war. Shit, why don’t you analyze it?

    You don’t owe me a damn thing, obviously. I do find you depressing. I stopped reading you a few years ago; at the time your dad would occasionally comment and he seemed like a good guy – why didn’t that rub off more?

    Yes, a Mulligan is a do-over. It is not the same as a mistake. You ask your opponent for a Mulligan or agree upon them before-hand; only a cheater assumes them.

    You were dismissive of people who expressed the very simple, and yet also deeply complex (in that it’s been encultured into billions of people through the long history of human conflict) thought that war is a very, very, very bad thing, and should only occur when absolutely no other alternative exists. Do you now agree with that concept?

  28. OK, I’ll analyze it. My comment about responsible adults referred to people whose writing against the war I happened to read at the time, and who made any number of childish and irresponsible arguments, backed up with cheap sloganeering. Does “Bush lied, people died” ring a bell? Since you mention ad hominems, how about the whole “chickenhawk” business? Or the claim that the Iraq war was somehow unique because it was “preemptive,” when Hussein had been shooting at our planes for years? I trust you made none of these arguments and thus have no need to take it personally. But isn’t it reasonable for me, having changed my mind, to say which arguments convinced me and which did not?

    Of course I consider war a last resort, and always did. I don’t like seeing people killed any more than you do. But that view is perfectly compatible with supporting any particular war. I’m sorry I supported this one. You find me insufficiently contrite. De gustibus.

    On mulligans, as George Sanders remarked to Marilyn Monroe in All About Eve, “You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point.”

  29. Our victory in Iraq demonstrates several propositions:

    The military knew what they were doing. I suppose it’s logically possible that a different plan would have achieved even better results, but with Coalition deaths around 150, Iraqi civilian deaths at well under 1,000, and the war essentially over in three weeks, it’s hard to imagine how. Never, as many others have pointed out, has an opposing force been more careful with the lives of enemy civilians, and even soldiers, than the enemy itself. Quagmire? What quagmire?

    The Iraqis prefer us to Saddam. Well, duh. You would have had to be insentient to believe anything else in the first place. And anyone who can remain indifferent to the Iraqis’ overwhelming joy at the end of Hussein’s regime or scold them for lifting a few souvenirs from his blood-soaked palaces is morally depraved.

    Iraq will be better off. Cf. Afghanistan. We still have no idea what the government will look like in Iraq, but really, it can’t be worse. The word “liberation” is fully justified.

    You get more credit for the second half:

    It does not, however, demonstrate that invading Iraq was a good idea in the first place. I think it was, and recent developments have done nothing to change my mind. But even as the bankruptcy of the anti-war left becomes apparent, the best arguments against the war retain their force. First, it will massively increase the size of the federal government, as all major past wars have, war being the health of the state (Arthur Silber has been making this point tirelessly). Second, we are letting ourselves in for years of foreign garrisons — although I can think of a few troops in, say, Germany that we can spare. Finally, Iraq is just our opening salvo in the Middle East, where Iran and Saudi Arabia are even more serious troublemakers, and how we deal with those countries remains to be seen.

    Just be a little careful with the “I told you so’s,” is all I’m sayin’

    You did not just support this war. You spent considerable amounts of energy arguing for the war, and against those who did not want it to occur. Your level of complicity is much higher than John Smith who happened to think it was a good idea, but basically kept his thoughts to himself.

    So here’s what pisses me off about your apology. It’s the tone of “had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been for it”. However, the important facts of the war were known at the time – it was already clear that Bush had no credibility, that he did not plan, that he could not execute, and that with almost everything he did, domestic politics was one of the top two priorities. You ignored this evidence in 2002 and 2003, and those of us who pointed it out you referred to in derogatory terms. Somewhere between then and now you changed your mind – and you think it’s because you acquired better information – but while that’s nominally true, that’s not the difference. The difference is, you started realizing who was completely full of shit, and who wasn’t. There are plenty of people who still drink the Kool-Aid (LGF or Powerline, anyone?) and it’s because they still haven’t reconciled the cognitive dissonance of thinking oneself a good judge of other people, and betting your chips on the current presidential administration. So I give you full props for being ahead of those motherfuckers.

    But why did it take you so long? Seriously – why? Why did your natural skepticism at everything else in the entire fucking world disappear when it came to believing these clowns? Yes, that’s depressing to me.

    When the convicted rapist comes to his parole hearing after 4 years of denial and says “OK, I did actually rape her – but she was wearing a really slutty dress and my friend told me she liked it rough” – well, does that elicit sympathy from you?

    Insufficiently contrite? You don’t come across as contrite in the slightest. You just seem a bit annoyed that you were wrong, and are irritated at the fucktards who screwed the operation up so badly that you had to admit it at all.

  30. Let’s start with a couple easy targets (for you). What childish and irresponsible arguments did Joe Wilson and Hans Blix make?

  31. Given your alarming familiarity with my archives, you must know that, out of the hundreds of substantive posts I’ve written, I devoted no more than half a dozen of them to the war. (In particular, I never said a word about Joe Wilson or Hans Blix, because I don’t recall either of them making an argument that I thought was worth debunking.) That makes me more “complicit” — as tomorrow’s Nuremburg judges will want to note — than never having written at all, but “considerable amounts of energy” is an exaggeration. There’s a reason I’m always listed as a culture blogger.

    I did not change my mind because I “acquired better information.” On the contrary, I take pains in the post to say that I should have realized, at the time, that the operation had to fail. I nowhere resort to the often-seen argument that the war was a fine idea in principle, just mismanaged, which I think is for sissies. Replace Bush and Rumsfeld with the logistical geniuses of your choice, and you’d still have a catastrophe.

    If I did not arrive at these views quickly enough to suit you, it may be because I took a year off, thought this (and other matters) over, and made sure I had it right this time so as not to play Hamlet. I also remind you that I didn’t “have to admit” anything at all; I could have gone on with my usual subjects and no one, save possibly you, would have noticed. But no gesture of intellectual honesty goes unpunished.

  32. I came to your website from a perhaps unusual angle; I enjoyed the Gee Files. And I started reading your blog and continued until your war posts pissed me off so much that I took my own few years off until very recently.

    If I misunderstand the nature of your apology, and you truly are contrite, then good for you and I am sorry for misreading you.

    My interpretations are my own. My track record in that regard is strong.

    I brought up Blix and Wilson in response to this:

    “people whose writing against the war I happened to read at the time, and who made any number of childish and irresponsible arguments”

    Both of those individuals were very clear about why we should view the WMD justification with extreme skepticism.

    I’ll tune back in around 2008 or so. Best of luck.

  33. I knew we going to war.Thebuild up of troops in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and naval build up in the gulf meant the executive branch of US was lost in emotions.The war with Irag is just plain DUMB. Mr. Blixs was the inspector to not be intimidated by US pressure I will always stand up for a person that let the truth dictate the road you follow.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>