Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Some thoughts on Changing Your Mind about Iraq

The LA Times recently hosted Francis Fukuyama, writing about changing his mind.

Francis Fukuyama on changing his mind

I tried to extract the most important points of the article using Francis’ words, but he proved too concise - to further shrink his words would leave me subject to the “quotes out of context” claim. So, here is part of what he said, but you really need to read the whole article:

SEVEN WEEKS AGO, I published my case against the Iraq war. I wrote that although I had originally advocated military intervention in Iraq, and had even signed a letter to that effect shortly after the 9/11 attacks, I had since changed my mind.

But apparently this kind of honest acknowledgment is verboten. In the weeks since my book came out, I've been challenged, attacked and vilified from both ends of the ideological spectrum. From the right, columnist Charles Krauthammer has accused me of being an opportunistic traitor to the neoconservative cause — and a coward to boot. From the left, I've been told that I have "blood on my hands" for having initially favored toppling Saddam Hussein and that my "apology" won't be accepted.

In my view, no one should be required to apologize for having supported intervention in Iraq before the war. There were important competing moral goods on both sides of the argument, something that many on the left still refuse to recognize. … The debate over the war shouldn't have been whether it was morally right to topple Hussein (which it clearly was), but whether it was prudent to do so given the possible costs and potential consequences of intervention and whether it was legitimate for the U.S. to invade in the unilateral way that it did.

But in the years since then, it is the right that has failed to come to terms with these uncomfortable facts. The failure to find WMD and to make a quick transition to a stable democracy — as well as the prisoner abuse and the inevitable bad press that emerges from any prolonged occupation — have done enormous damage to America's credibility and standing in the world….

The logic of my prewar shift on invading Iraq has now been doubly confirmed. I believe that the neoconservative movement, with which I was associated, has become indelibly associated with a failed policy, and that unilateralism and coercive regime change cannot be the basis for an effective American foreign policy. …

What has infuriated many people is President Bush's unwillingness to admit that he made any mistakes whatsoever in the whole Iraq adventure….

… Instead of trying to defend sharply polarized positions taken more than three years ago, it would be far better if people could actually take aboard new information and think about how their earlier commitments, honestly undertaken, actually jibe with reality — even if this does on occasion require changing your mind.

Francis speaks from a unique viewpoint – or at least it once was unique. There seem to be more and more post 9/11 pro-war voices who are now rethinking the whole Iraq invasion and occupation thing. Many of them do not claim, as Francis does, that the war was a bad idea, that “democratizing Iraq and the Mideast might come to look like empire”, but rather, as Bill Buckley says. “It didn’t work”. Bill’s final words on the subject are “… within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.” Not that Bill thinks the goal was wrong, or even the tactics, just that we couldn’t, or wouldn’t, apply appropriate measures to accomplish our goal. Measures such as we used on Hiroshima and Dresden. Or perhaps he meant instituting the draft; he really isn’t very clear on the subject.

The trouble the left has (is there a “left” anymore? I think of the left as everything different from the right) is that Francis and Bill say the cause is lost but don’t admit that it was a MILITARY invasion that failed. They don’t renounce war as a tool of regime change. Bill explicitly reserves the right to invade another country in an attempt to plant democracy (he calls it maintaining American idealism - the same idealism that invaded Iraq in the first place), while Francis is more circumspect – he says only that we should have had the full support of the UN, that “… no one should be required to apologize for having supported intervention in Iraq before the war.” Which the Bill thing is funny, if you think about it. The last two regime changes we attempted, Afghanistan and Iraq, ended up instituting Sharia as the law of the land – and Bill thinks we need to go back and talk to the Afghani’s more, so that they understand that when AMERICA brings you democracy, you better by Gawd have a special place in your heart for Christians. Even if they are apostate Muslims.

Mind you, I have no problems with apostasy.

Francis doesn’t get it, Bill doesn’t get it, none of them get it. Ok, Francis does come close – he says “unilateralism and coercive regime change cannot be the basis for an effective American foreign policy.” Does that mean he now believes that invasion and occupation are not the best method for planting democracy?

I don’t know what he believes, but that is what I believe, and believed back then.

Changing your mind when the facts don’t support your beliefs is a good thing. I think there are a lot of us who might give it a try.

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