Syria and pundit job security

In a sane media, anyone who was totally utterly wrong on the Iraq war would not be taken seriously as a national security voice.
Consider, for example, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, who said in a mea culpa that “I felt secure in the knowledge that all who yearn for freedom, once free, would use it well. I was wrong. There is no freedom gene, no inner guide that understands the virtues of civil society, of secret ballots, of political parties.”
As Hilzoy put it some years back, “The appropriate next sentence would be: Of course, the fact that I thought there was a freedom gene means that I am a complete idiot, so having confessed this in the New York Times, I plan to retire to a life of small good works, carefully chosen so that my complete ignorance of human affairs and my staggering lack of judgment will henceforth be unable to do anyone serious damage. Alas, Ms. Pletka does not seem to have drawn the appropriate conclusion.”
As we can see, because she’s on a long list of “experts” on an article in the right-wing Weekly Standard recommending Obama act against the Syrian government. He’s already said the use of chemical warfare is unacceptable, so if he doesn’t act, “the Assad regime’s mounting attacks with chemical weapons will show the world that America’s red lines are only empty threats. It is a dangerous and destabilizing message that will surely come to haunt us.”
Also on the list, Iraq warhawks Max Boot, William Kristol, Karl Rove (who’s a political strategist, so he hardly counts as a national security expert by any standard), Elliot Abrams and others (I don’t know, I should note, if all of them supported the war).
It’s pretty simple: The Iraq war was a disaster. We went in based on bullshit (and plenty of people pointed out it was bullshit at the time), with a Pletka style conviction that this nation-building stuff would be easy (again, there were people who said otherwise) and the cheerleaders continued to insist everything was great, freedom is messy, look they voted isn’t that awesome (as Hilzoy said at the link, we’d hardly be saying that if our country was gripped by the same level of violence as Iraq). Anyone who supported it is clearly not an expert to trust on national security.
Yet in punditry, spewing bullshit and inaccuracy is not a problem. David Brooks for example, can write an NYT column discussing how “our leaders” made a wrong call on Iraq and never mention his own lousy judgment (in 2004 he dismissed criticism of the war with “Pundits and sages were spinning a whole series of mutually exclusive disaster scenarios: Civil war! A nationwide rebellion! Maybe we should calm down a bit.”). Neither his original hawkishness nor his pretense it never happened have hurt his career.
I realize punditry is not bound by factual reporting the way reporting is, and that predicting the future is never a slam-dunk. At the same time, your opinions are supposed to be worth something. If you’re wrong about a disastrous war, what qualifies you to offer an opinion, let alone an expert opinion, on another one? Megan McArdle, a war supporter, argued after everything fell apart that the people who got it wrong have learned from their mistakes so their insight is probably better than the smug people who told her she was full of shit and made her cry—er, made accurate predictions about the war. Hilzoy dissects that argument at the link—and of course, Brooks shows some of them are pretty good at ignoring their own errors (after all, it’s only Iraq and US soldiers, it’s not like it’s anyone important who got killed).
And here’s Slacktivist arguing against taking action, and providing links to further discussion.


Filed under Politics

7 responses to “Syria and pundit job security

  1. Pingback: The right-wing freaks out about Syria | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: McArdle once again | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Sunday morning linkage | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: I haven’t picked on David Brooks in a while … | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  5. Pingback: New column out | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  6. Pingback: Is Matt Gaetz lying to us, to himself, or both? | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  7. Pingback: Links for the ongoing storm | Fraser Sherman's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.