In the June 28 apologia issue of The New Republic, editor Peter Beinart blames his surprise that the Bush administration’s adventure in Iraq ran into “problems” on the fact that he may have supressed his partisanship too much. He states that Bush’s “pro-war camp” (of which TNR was one of the would-be counselors) failed to listen to “countries skeptical of war,” “American liberals” (into which he lumps humanitarian NGOs concerned about postwar reconstruction), and antiwar “enemies within the administration itself.”
Well, duh. Those were precisely the same people TNR ignored during the war’s run-up.
The problem with Beinart’s self-examination is that it wasn’t partisanship that was lacking when he assumed the administration would get the Iraq war and reconstruction right. Intelligence and reason should have informed him that their claims about Iraq were suspect. The advocates for war within the administration were the same people who supported Saddam in the 1980s, were behind the Iran-Contra scandal, supported death squads in Central America, killed a couple thousand Panamanian civilians to depose Noriega when he was no longer useful to the CIA, and left the Iraqi Shiites hanging following the first Iraq War after promising to help them. Oh, and let’s not forget all of the aid that went through Pakistan to the Afghan rebels and their allies (including Osama bin laden) fighting against the Soviets. Even those few members of the administration not directly involved in decision-making in the previous actions — almost all of which were illegal in one way or another — approved of and supported them.
Then let’s not forget the inept handling of matters within this country since Bush’s election. For Beinart to conclude that the gang of people who had done as poorly on the domestic front as Bush’s team had in a prosperous country with a well-developed infrastructure and governmental institutions would be a good choice to establish a stable government in a country devastated by Saddam’s neglect and American bombing was just deluded.
It’s not as if everyone was surprised by the bumbling of this administration. How Beinart could be so naive as to think that a government led by someone so — to borrow a term from the Reagan legacy — disengaged was trustworthy to make the right choices about whether to go to war and how to handle the aftermath isn’t a lack of partisanship. It’s a lack of common sense.