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The Economist smacks down the neo-con's incompetence dodge

I still retain a lingering affection for clever Brits at The Economist. If nothing else, they're courtiers who are reliable weathervanes:

“NEMESIS” was the word The Economist printed on its front cover four years ago, when jubilant Iraqis, aided by American soldiers, hauled down the big statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Firdos Square. ...

“It is hard to imagine any post-war dispensation that could leave Iraqis less free or more miserable than they were under Mr Hussein,” we said four years ago. Our imagination failed. One of the men who took a hammer to Saddam's statue told the world's media this week that although Saddam was like Stalin, the occupation is worse.

What went wrong? The most popular answer of the American neoconservatives who argued loudest for the war is that it was a good idea badly executed. Kenneth Adelman, he of the “cakewalk”, has since called the Bush national-security team “among the most incompetent” of the post-war era.

That's the incompetence dodge, and I'm glad The Economist is calling bullshit on it. What's wrong with it?

That excuse is too convenient by half: it is what the apologists for communism said too.

This is Digby's "conservatism can never fail; it can only be failed. But although the neo-con's Trotskyite roots are evident in everything they do and say, this aspect never occurred to me. Kudos to the clever Brits!

It is not enough to say with the neocons that this was a good idea executed badly. Their own ideas are partly to blame. Too many people in Washington were fixated on proving an ideological point: that America's values were universal and would be digested effortlessly by people a world away. But plonking an American army in the heart of the Arab world was always a gamble. It demanded the highest seriousness and careful planning. Messrs Bush and Rumsfeld chose instead to send less than half the needed soldiers and gave no proper thought to the aftermath.

What a waste. Most Iraqis rejoiced in the toppling of Saddam. They trooped in their millions to vote. What would Iraq be like now if America had approached its perilous, monumentally controversial undertaking with humility, honesty and courage? Thanks to the almost criminal negligence of Mr Bush's administration nobody, now, will ever know.

What do they mean, "almost criminal negligence?

The Economist is widely read by the sort of people who travel in the big seats at the front of airplanes. I'd say this story shows it really is open season on the maladministration, in almost all circles of society -- except for the small circle of loyalists and enables who still surround the man who stole election 2000 in Florida and governed as if He had a mandate.

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chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

What would Iraq be like now if America had approached its perilous, monumentally controversial undertaking with humility, honesty and courage?

what would iraq be like now if the press had applied those same standards in its reporting instead of cheerleading the effort? it was just as clear in 2002-3 as it is today that chimpy and his people were incompetent ideologues.

Thanks to the almost criminal negligence of Mr Bush’s administration nobody, now, will ever know.

thanks to the absolutely criminal complicity of the media during the spin up to the war, "nobody" (read: not bloggers and the republican lickspittles in the press) knew that the case for war was complete shite, that the administration was filled with cronies who couldn't plan their was out of a paper bag, and that there was at that time clear indications that neither the full arab world community or most of the rest of the world supported invasion as the best way to overthrow saddam.

fuck the economist and every other organ of the press that supported this war. i could fill this blog with daily posts about tryannical regimes oppressing their own people, and you know what? the only difference is that those rulers either don't have wealth wanted by the west or are playing ball with western financial entities and are thus "ok" in the minds of the economists. these crocodile tears for iraq are just shite, utter shite.

they supported this war for the reason every other group of intelligent hypocrites did: money. the economist saw the bottom line for halliburton, carlyle, and the oil companies- and answered accordingly. they know who their masters are, over there at the "sensible" economic press.

Submitted by lambert on


Too many people in Washington were fixated on proving an ideological point: that America’s values were universal and would be digested effortlessly by people a world away.

Translation: The neo-cons were about as wrong as its possible to be (500 years of British imperial experience talking here).

CD, I'm not sure you're getting enough irony in your diet. Or isn't decoding the messages the ruling class sends to itself a useful exercise?

No authoritarians were tortured in the writing of this post.

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

I agree with Lambert about decoding the ruling class's inter-office memos; would that the Washington Post would get this particular one and stop with the stab in the back editorials.

CD's rage is warranted.

And what's with this idiotic notion that spreading Democracy is something the neo-cons genuinely believe in; maybe this is a mantra they honestly repeat to themselves, but it remains nothing more than a mantra without any actual indications that they have thought about what actual policies, short of endless war, might accomplish that goal. I calls that explanation bullshit. Just as their calls for universal democracy are and were bullshit.

What neo-cons and Republcans were after is putting this country on a permanent war-time basis, as in the cold war, and they were interested in that because those are the circumstances that have always made it easier for them to hold power. That it was a Republican who called them on it, Dwight Eisenhower, matters not; why do you think you never hear modern Republicans refer to Eisenhower. Then again, he had run a war, the good one; he wasn't easy to fool on that score.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

when red state, bible thumping, he-man americans bought into the idea that a 'former' drunk, frog-exploding, sadist closet case, religious "don't kill me, he he heh" hypocrite was "the guy they wanted to have a beer with" and elect as president. the corpse of irony was battered ignobly into shreds on dec 12, 2000, when the nation's supreme justice makers decided that "just this once," they should subvert the framer's democracy, and would decide who our president should be despite the contrary will of the voters lying out in the open for counting for all to see- and america went along with it.

yeah, my sense of irony is long gone, and i suppose i should take supplements.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

In fact it died long before, burnt-out in the 80s through over-use. What remained was a brain-dead zombie, finally chain-sawed in half on the dates you gave. But it's alive and well in many other places.