Heroes in Error

Media, War and Politics

But at the core of my support for the war was an analytical failure I think about often: Rather than looking at the war that was actually being sold, I’d invented my own Iraq war to support — an Iraq war with different aims, promoted by different people, conceptualized in a different way and bearing little resemblance to the project proposed by the Bush administration. In particular, I supported Kenneth Pollack’s Iraq war.

Ezra Klein

No. The core of your support for the war was a moral failure. A guy who murders his wife doesn’t get to hide behind a claim about bad analysis after he discovers that she wasn’t in fact screwing the mailman. Oh, you invented an imaginary war to support? That isn’t bad analysis. It’s a crime.

You will note that the commentariat is currently full of decennial mea culpas, and what that tells you is that people like Ezra Klein who skipped the protests in order to type in favor of the death of thousands have been richly rewarded with careers in the popular media. This makes their post-hoc apologies completely of a kind with their antebellum cheerleading: it entails no personal risk and carries with it the prospect of professional advancement. For these people, commenting on war, “supporting” or “opposing” it is a matter of career advancement, totally lacking in human content. Six out of ten dentists prefer Afghanistan, four Iraq.

Let me tell you what Ezra Klein still believes. He believes that even in his utter failure, he was more right than the kids who skipped class to go swarm the National Mall. He believes their opposition to be adolescent protest and knee-jerk antagonism toward any foreign policy undertaken by the US. He believes that the grannies and Code Pink ladies and hippie undergrads and black storefront denominations who hollered the loudest were right only by accident; they were the big hand of the stopped clock and Iraq was the coincidental hour. They didn’t read The Threatening Storm . . . or The New Republic; they didn’t listen to Colin Powell’s UN presentation; they still haven’t heard of Stephen Hadley.

Phony empiricism in the service of being totally wrong is one of those grand American traditions, like tailgating or real estate speculation. Its perpetrators get to double their column inches, the first time in elaborate tautological error, the second time in grotesquely self-serving repentance  Perversely, in admitting to being total idiots who got everything backwards the first time around, all of their subsequent forward-looking pronouncements gain an additional patina of respectability; their past dimness somehow implies a present sagacity.

Ezra Klein is a policy reporter who was wrong about the most significant bit of policy in his adult lifetime. This makes him an up-and-coming star of journalism and a sought-after public intellectual.

Personally, I’ll stick with the kids and their dreadlocks and the grannies.