Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Greg Sargent:

The decision to support or oppose the Iraq war wasn't about doctrine. It was about judgment. Many of those who backed the war fell prey not to ideology, but to a massive judgment failure. They were unswayed by mounting evidence that at least some of the case for war was based on lies -- and yes, there was plenty of evidence of this before the war. They were similarly unmoved by those who argued -- perhaps with better judgment than they -- that such an enterprise was undoable. And as for those who have adopted the fallback position that no one could know just how incompetent the Bush team would prove, that too constituted a judgment failure, not a mere accident. There were plenty of people who before the war argued -- and here we can be certain their judgment was better -- that the ideological blinders Bush and his neocon advisers had donned meant Bush and company weren't to be trusted with this enterprise.

Saying the decision was about judgment, not doctrine, is not mere semantic quibbling. It goes to the heart of what the opinion-making trade is all about. Readers often turn to columnists and pundits because they trust them to sift through conflicting facts to make solid judgments or help them form their own. And as for Kevin's assertion that "the world comes in shades of gray and neither success nor failure was quite as preordained as you might think," he's right -- the case either for or against wasn't clear cut. But I'd argue that it's precisely when a decision comes in "shades of gray" or when an outcome isn't "preordained" -- that is, when a decision is hard to make -- that the good judgment of opinionmakers becomes more crucial than ever. (After all, why would we need pundits to help us make decisions in situations which are black-and-white or whose outcomes are preordained?) If we look at those who are now mea-culpa-ing about the war and see their decision retrospectively as having been driven by doctrine or ideology, not judgment, it absolves them of professional failure.