A friendly critic, some years ago, told me that Chronicles could never succeed, because, although we are often right, we are right much too early. To have spoken about the Islamic problem a few days after September 11 made you look like a prophet. We had been warning about the danger for over 15 years. We were also right about the significance of the Balkan conflicts, immigration, and multiculturalism, but we were always so far ahead of the curve that, on every issue, we went through the same cycle: initial ridicule, a brief instant of respect, then a dismissive ”Oh, everybody knows that now!”
The saddest issue on which we have been proved correct is the war in Iraq. We said, from the beginning, that the evidence did not justify an invasion, and, that even if it did, the result would be a quagmire of violence and chaos from which it would be difficult to extricate ourselves.
By now, even Bill Buckley knows we were right. What did we know that was not available to Don Rumsfeld and the neoconservative chickenhawks who egged him on? In one sense, nothing; in another, everything. It is often not technical information we need in order to make up our minds about a political issue, but historical and moral understanding. Our “reading” of Iraq was derived from the study of history going back to the postcolonial formation of the country, to the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, all the way back to the ancient Sumerians and Assyrians of Mesopotamia.
Today, virtually everybody knows. Even the Dallas Morning News has conceded the truth:
Prior to the commencement of hostilities in Iraq, a small but vociferous faction of paleoconservatives and foreign-policy realists argued that the United States was careening into catastrophe. Some argued from prudential grounds that attacking Iraq would cause more problems than it would solve. Others argued from traditionalist conservative convictions about the nature of men and societies that it was delusional to think that America could, by force of arms, impose liberal democracy on a nation that lacked the cultural and institutional capability for it. These thinkers were not only ignored, but some were anathematized from the right as unpatriotic.
As the writer who headed the list of David Frum’s “unpatriotic conservatives,” I am entitled to brag, on behalf of my colleagues. America needs Chronicles, if only to inject a little musty old-fashioned air into our national debates. If you have already made a gift this Christmas season, please accept my thanks. If you haven’t yet sent a contribution, please help us to keep the voice of conservative sanity on the web by clicking here. All donations to ChroniclesMagazine.org are tax deductible, so don’t delay. ~Thomas Fleming
I cannot urge everyone strongly enough to contribute to the support of Chronicles‘ website. It is one of the very few voices of sanity available online, and it is to my mind quite clearly the best and most insightful commentary written in this country.