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The Delusions of Iraq War Hawks

Screenshot: PBS Newshour

David Brooks made a revealing comment in an interview with Charlie Rose last week (starts around 37:00):

And Iraq was Iraq, and it didn’t work out. But at least it was a belief in essential progress [bold mine-DL]– that history is not just an endless war of all against all, but a common march toward a more common future.

I suppose this is as close to an admission of error as one is likely to get from most Iraq war supporters, but this is a remarkable refusal to rethink any of the assumptions of the pro-war position. Brooks says that “it didn’t work out,” as if it was merely accidental that waging aggressive war against another country didn’t produce the desired results. Earlier in the interview he is lauding the virtues of the “liberal global order,” but he doesn’t seem to understand that waging preventive war against another state represents a violent attack on and subversion of that very order.

Many Iraq war advocates indulged unrealistic and ideological fantasies of what would happen after the invasion, but the war didn’t happen because of a “belief in essential progress.” (That wouldn’t have made the war any less unjust, but it simply isn’t true.) The motivation behind the invasion was an irrational fear of a foreign threat that was wildly exaggerated in the minds of the war’s supporters. The war was the product of panicked overreaction, dishonest claims, and shoddy reasoning. Above all, it was the product of having enormous military strength and no compunctions against using it against a much weaker country. Continuing to insist on the supposedly high-minded reasons for launching an illegal war almost fifteen years after the fact shows that many hawkish supporters of the Iraq war still won’t accept that the war was a massive blunder and terrible crime.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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