Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iraq Navel-Gazing

I haven't discussed my early thinking about the Iraq War very much here. My story isn't the pundit one where I was wrong, but the ordinary person one where I wasn't paying enough attention to politics. 2001-2003 were unusually apolitical years in my life, as I was engrossed in the first two years of philosophy grad school and didn't think about a whole lot else. (Being at Harvard from 1997-2001 where the enemy was nowhere nearby also took a lot of steam out of my political interests. High school in North Carolina back in the Jesse Helms days was really where my political interests grew.)

I was dubious of the venture and on balance thought it was a bad idea for War or Car reasons -- this was going to cost a lot more money than it would probably be worth. But there was the remote possibility that Saddam had a nuclear bomb. I liked the idea of giving Iraqis a stable liberal democracy, but I thought Bush would screw it up (I've now realized that nobody could do it.) But I didn't really get involved.

I was thinking of this when I read Matt's "Why I was wrong about the war back in late 2002-early 2003" post:
it was clear to me that something was badly amiss as soon as Bush/Blair/Aznar pulled the plug on the inspections process. By a couple of months later, it seemed pretty clear that there was no scary WMD program and also that there was no real for what to do.
(There's a word left out of that last sentence, but somehow it leaves the meaning intact.) In a different way, this was a big event for me too. It made me freak out about how foreign policy was being made and pay more attention. I started reading blogs -- Matt's thing was one of the first. I thought about joining up with Dean, but the polling and my general picture of politics suggested that John Edwards was the most plausible instrument of Bush removal, so I joined that team instead, and got interested enough to start this blogging thing in mid-2004.


Petey said...

"In a different way, this was a big event for me too. It made me freak out about how foreign policy was being made and pay more attention. I started reading blogs"

I became a voracious blog reader and commenter in the same era. And blogs became valuable because simply because mainstream punditry was ignoring reality.

It's really worth noting that we've returned to that condition today.

Mainstream punditry will only discuss items that one of the two parties wants to discuss. In '02-'03, neither party had any interest in discussing the realities of foreign policy. And similarly, over the past 18 months, neither party has had any interest in discussing the realities of domestic policy.

In such a condition, reality just gets ignored by mainstream punditry. If neither party sees profit in talking about something, it doesn't get talked about.

Unfortunately, with the professionalization of much of the lefty blogosphere, it's paradoxically more difficult for the average interested reader to find discussions of reality now than it was in '02-'03. Now, instead of just finding the hot blogs, you need to very carefully pick and choose between your blogs. A lot of chaff is being thrown in the air these days in the blogosphere that wasn't present back in the early days. One of the first blogs you started reading is a prime culprit.


Of course, if you're actually interested in reality, and have some background context in how politics works, there remains the same avenue of discovering what's going on as there always was: read the goddamn paper.

Back in early summer 2002, I knew we were almost definitely going to war in Iraq, that the administration didn't care about the WMD realities, that the Democratic Party couldn't stop the venture, that Iraq definitely didn't have an advanced nuclear program, and that the administration didn't care too much about the cost, duration, or even the outcome of the war.

How did I know such things? Am I clairvoyant? No. I was just reading the national coverage of the NYT and WaPo on a regular basis. The federal government actually conducts its business in a rather open manner, as long as you are able to decipher the rather rudimentary coding of its communication system.

(For example, Matt doesn't understand why the Geithner meetings had to be "on background". And the reason is that if they weren't, everything Geithner said would become "hard evidence", and thus he'd have to talk in a very manner. Watch Larry Summers on TV sometime for an example of that particular game.)

Janet said...

I started getting involved with politics after 9/11. What's odd is that I have always been surrounded by hyper-liberals, so that I never did get that Carolina motivation, but always felt I wasn't making a huge difference, just joining the mob. I almost immediately expected that Bush would come up with any excuse to invade Iraq, and pretty much never believed the WMD claims - didn't support a war even if there were. I walked out of class in March 2003. I know it was an inhumane regime and all, but without UN support it's just a hostile invasion for our own economy's sake, and definitely no kind of incentive for a better state there.
I do wish I'd gotten more behind Dean but he fizzled too quickly. I've actually been less politically engaged since 2004, and definitely since 2008, although I did start working for the board of elections. Low profile personal blogging only.

Petey said...

Gee, Neil, I do appreciate you deleting a comment of mine for the first time in a post where you talk about why you got involved in political blogging in the first place. I got into blogoworld determined to remain an avowed amateur, and this marks your transition into being a pro. I suppose this is a sort of graduation for you.

You won't have to ask me a second time. (I dunno about Nicholas, but I'm generally less motivated to comment on his posts anyway. I suppose he can ask me to go away on his own, if he so chooses.)

I've enjoyed chatting with you over the years. You always used to be far more interested in progressive praxis than than average bear. And you always used to have more of an interest in genuine intellectual honesty on these matters than the average bear.

I've enjoyed carrying the flag on the same side as you for a good while, and I'm genuinely sorry your decision making has taken you to this point where you are carrying a different flag. But c'est la guerre, I suppose. That's pretty much the best excuse I can come up with for you.


And you really ought to start War or Car up again. I know we just Ended Major Combat Operations in Iraq™, but you ought to compare the total money appropriated for Iraq and Afghanistan in '10, '11, and '12 (projected) to that of '06.

So we can't get you that car. Sorry. Instead you can have one (yes, just one) of our delicious Ended Major Combat Operations in Iraq™ candy bars. It won't exactly provide transportation for you and your family, but the corn syrup in it is is truly delicious, and will provide important calories that are part of a healthy diet.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Petey! I didn't delete anything! I don't know what happened.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Feel free to re-post what you can remember of it.