Rod Dreher, author of the forthcoming book Crunchy Cons, contacted me the other day and had some very interesting things to say about his change of mind on the Iraq war. With his permission, I reproduce his comments here:
I have written on the Dallas Morning News blog about my about-face on the Iraq war, and how I realized much later that my eagerness to go to war was influenced at the time by my intense emotionalism after 9/11. Having lived in NYC on that day, and seen the south tower fall with my own eyes, I wanted revenge. I wanted somebody to pay, and if Saddam was going to be the scapegoat, fine. I ignored my own doubts about the realistic chances of democratizing, or even stabilizing, Iraqi society, because to have doubted would have meant most likely staying our hand. The whole thing was a severe and chastening lesson to me about giving way to an emotional politics, and only hearing what one wants to hear. I wish now we hadn’t gone to war in Iraq, and I regret having given public assent to a policy I no longer believe in.
This response is very understandable, and I can say that I shared it up to a point. In fact, before and during the invasion of Afghanistan I distinctly remember making the same sort of blithe, fairly irresponsible assertions to friends and colleagues about American success and the reconstruction that would follow, and like all together too many supporters of the Iraq invasion I cavalierly mocked skeptics who questioned the wisdom of deploying soldiers to Afghanistan or those who even had the temerity of questioning choices of strategy. In the fall of 2001, I am sorry to say, I was one of those people until what seemed like the sheer lunacy of the State of the Union speech in January 2002 shook me out of it.
I would like to think that my support for the Afghan war still makes more sense than the Iraqi, and undoubtedly it was manifestly much more justified, but it is sobering to remember that it is somewhat possible that, but for the Iraq invasion and what it represented, I could all too easily be parroting some of the very slogans I now deride.
As I remember remarking to a generally left-leaning classroom here at the University in October 2001, we often forget the genuine anger that motivates men in moments of crisis, and that historians who attempt to study the causes of events usually do not always perceive these sentiments. In some ways these sentiments are invisible, or they mask themselves with ideas and mislead the historian into thinking that it was something as intelligible as an idea that caused a conflagration. There is, in a sense, simply no reasoning with such feelings of outrage, which is perhaps why all the rational arguments that could be readily directed against the invasion of Iraq availed nothing.
Incidentally, Rod is now on the editorial board of The Dallas Morning News and will start up a Crunchy Con blog of his own after the book is released. The book is due out on February 21.