Jonah Goldberg

"Were We Wrong?"

That's the question the June 28 issue of The New Republic dedicates itself to. It sports a Who's Who of liberal hawks and interventionists, including Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Kenneth Pollack, Paul Berman and Sen. Joe Biden.

I feel a bit sorry for The New Republic, an esteemed liberal magazine that a.) supported the war but b.) loathes George W. Bush. To remain pro-war must feel to its writers like grabbing hold of a painfully jagged rock even as the current is trying to pull you to more comfortable waters where all your friends are frolicking.

The magazine offers an excellent post-mortem (for want of a better word) of the war, with a few unapologetic liberal hawks standing by their support and more offering qualified support. But taken as a whole, the issue is a thoughtful distillation of what is going on in the increasingly wobbly pro-war liberal circles these days. It's a veritable Wobble-palooza.

The upshot seems to be that since the postwar reconstruction is going so badly, liberals should have no responsibility for their decision. "I still have great difficulty fathoming why the administration chose not to fight the war the right way," declares Kenneth Pollack, the former Clinton administration NSA staffer who wrote the definitive book in favor of war, "The Threatening Storm."

By the way: The right way, according to Pollack, was his way.

Now, I should say that in hindsight I, too, think it would have been nice if things went his way. It would have been nice if the intelligence on WMDs had been better; if France hadn't actively sought to undermine us; if the Turks had let us send troops across their border; if human rights groups hadn't in effect rallied around a mass-murderer; if President Bush were more articulate, and so forth.

But as we all learned the first time we got socks for our birthday, you don't always get what you want. You don't even get what you expect.

People forget now that most opponents of the war were insisting all sorts of terrible things would happen that didn't. For example, they insisted there would be a massive humanitarian crisis with untold millions of refugees pouring over the borders. Didn't happen.

Lots of other stuff didn't happen either, of course, including lots of Iraqis greeting American troops with flowers and candy.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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