Defending his own book from criticism, Matt Yglesias begins sputtering:
My ideas really are basically the ideas that were at the core of the bipartisan, establishment consensus throughout the Cold War years. And they’re ideas that could and should have been the key ideas of center-left think tanks in the post-9/11 world. But that’s not what actually happened. Instead, a set of ideas that originally existed as a fringe right-wing position wound up being espoused not only by nearly the entire Republican Party but by a huge swathe of the broader establishment… [snip]
America traditionally hasn’t engaged in Iraq-scale blunders. But in the wake of 9/11 we saw a massive, system-wide failure of our elites that the country is only beginning to recover from, and that seems — despite its incredibly disastrous consequences — to have permanently pushed certain key institutions into loony land where the height of “seriousness” is to think politicians should muse aloud about launching an unprovoked attack on Iran.
Uhm… What about the Korean War or Vietnam? I suppose these aren’t “Iraq-scale,” being that they are much, much larger and helped to discredit the Truman and Johnson administrations respectively. Along the way these, let’s call ‘em “Vietnam-scaled blunders,” created a small renaissance of non-interventionist thinking on both the Left and Right. We might also consider the much longer list of recent (smaller than Iraq-scaled) blunders supported by the same establishment: the first Gulf War–the sanctions regime and the decade-long bombing campaign that followed there–Somalia, Haiti, and our intervention against Slobodan Milosevic. Can any of these be judged a success? The Iraq War was relaunched. Somalia saw the humiliation of American forces and taught bin Laden a few lessons. No one can explain what has been accomplished in Port au Prince. And Kosovo is in a state of near anarchy and has been linked to every post-9-11 terrorist attack in Europe. Yet Yglesias has the stones to frame Iraq as an isolated freakout? A one-off after decades of uninterrupted, unimpeachable successes of the establishment.
On neoconservatism, Yglesias knows better. Neoconservatism was not some “fringe right-wing position.” The intellectuals that formed that movement were not gathered around totems of extreme conservatism. No, they leapt forth from the heads of center-left Democrats Scoop Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Neoconservatism is a variant of the same establishment foreign policy that Yglesias claims to champion.
I suppose when you are a liberal who originally supported the Iraq War and you have a foreign policy book to sell, a little misrepresentation is necessary. Or is Yglesias willing to say that he too was out in “loony land” when he boosted an unprovoked war on a nation that hadn’t attacked us? Maybe he lacked what Obama-supporters call “judgment” in these matters.
I tend to think Yglesias’s statement that our elites are “only beginning to recover from” Iraq is quite premature.