Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Long Memory

David Corn gives a well-deserved smack to TNR's pseudo-mea culpa. I had praised Beinart's previously, largely because he had acknowledged the part that his self-congratulatory smugness had played in his decision, but overall the TNR issue (what I've read - not all of it) was just more of the same nonsense. Corn reminds us, and them:

The editorial acknowledges "we should have paid more attention to these warning signs." Yet it reports, "we feel regret--but no shame." That is because the "moral" rationale--liberating Iraq and countering "the forces of ignorance, fanaticism and bigotry" in the Arab world--has not collapsed. While this argument for war may have been mugged by reality, the magazine argues, it has not been negated.

But before the war, TNR had a different take. In an editorial posted on August 22, 2002, and entitled "Best Case," the editors dismissed going to war because Hussein was evil. ("He is not the only evil leader in the world, and we are not proposing to act against other evil leaders.") It pooh-poohed invading Iraq to bring democracy to Mesopotamia. ("But this, too, cannot explain why the absence of democracy in Iraq is more odious and more threatening than the absence of democracy in many other states.") But there was "one spectacular thing" that made the "villain in Baghdad" an appropriate target: "He is the only leader in the world with weapons of mass destruction who has used them....That is the case."

This editorial did not justify war--and the loss of American and Iraqi lives--with references to exporting freedom to oppressed Iraqis. Nor did it limit the "strategic" mission to preventing Hussein from ramping up a nuclear weapons program. The editors essentially accepted the core of Bush's argument: Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (which meant chemical and biological weapons) and he had used WMDs in the past (in the 1980s, while the Reagan-Bush administration was courting and assisting him). Today's TNR, for some reason, is not fully in touch with its wisdom of 2002.

In a subsequent editorial--"Time Out," posted on January 30, 2003--the magazine did focus more on the prospective nuclear threat posed by Hussein. But much of the editorial's energy was directed at "liberals" and "Bush's critics" for promoting "abject pacifism." This editorial did not address the concerns of war opponents who (with good cause) were questioning Bush's overstatements regarding the WMD threat presented by Iraq and the alleged but unproven connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. Nor did it respond to the arguments that Bush and his lieutenants could not be trusted to handle the post-invasion job correctly. Rather than evaluate--let alone ponder--such inconvenient thoughts, the magazine's editors preferred to ridicule opponents of the war.