Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

A Litany of Pride – The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on March 28, 2023

Twenty years ago, we invaded Iraq at the counsel of detached wonks who have always been too impressed with themselves.

Respected, though controverted, surveys figure the number of dead in the hundreds of thousands and perhaps even more than a million. Many more Iraqis were injured, and an estimated third of the population, 9.2 million people, were displaced at some point, with more than two million driven overseas. The numbers are shocking, a special outrage for an aggressive war based on falsehoods that failed to fulfill its objective and left behind a sometime failing state

Doug Bandow

Two decades ago, the worst president in modern U.S. history plunged the country into a foolish and needless war. Thousands of Americans died. Hundreds of thousands of foreigners lost their lives. Trillions of dollars were squandered. Yet few Washington policymakers have learned anything from the experience.

Indeed, some members of the blob, as the foreign policy community is indecorously known, are most worried about the American people opposing new misadventures. Journalist Natalia Antonova sees “defeatism in the words and actions” of those who oppose Washington’s once unstoppable War Party. AEI’s Hal Brands fears “the ‘no more Iraqs’ mindset.”

Washington, D.C., has long been full of people full of themselves—convinced that they saw further into the future than others, had the mandate of heaven to remake the world, and needn’t concern themselves about the human cost of their grand ambitions. The collapse of the Soviet Union unleashed an especially toxic mix of hubris and sanctimony.

In 2001 the neoconservative war lobby found its president, the ideological simpleton George W. Bush, and its moment, the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack—tragic retaliation for years of foreign meddling. Encouraged by modern political Know Nothings, Americans imagined that they were targeted for their virginal innocence. However, people in the Middle East and beyond saw something very different: multiple military interventions, sustained support for dictatorships and occupations, and endless hypocrisies.

Bush plunged the U.S. into a misguided military crusade and nation-building campaign, justified by lies and designed by fantasists. The president’s minions advanced their convenient falsehoods even though abundant contradictory evidence circulated within the administration. Factotums and pundits alike believed what they wanted to believe, unconcerned with the consequences. Even today, few war advocates acknowledge error let alone express regret for the catastrophic consequences of their policy.

Republicans were the woke warriors of their time, seeking to silence anyone who questioned their Great Leader in Washington. When challenged over sources and evidence, members of the war party responded with vitriol and bile. To oppose aggressive war meant one was an idiot, traitor, or both. To oppose an illegal invasion meant one was pro-Saddam Hussein. To oppose a preventive war against a phantom power meant one was unconcerned that the smoking gun might yield a mushroom cloud.

Amid the tsunami of neocon misinformation, conservative betrayal, and Republican opportunism, the mid-2000s were a bleak time to be a dissenter. A once friendly newspaper essentially stopped running my articles, even on other subjects; online conservative publications lost interest in my submissions, despite claiming to be open to all; one site retrospectively purged my anti-war columns from its archives. Within my own organization a senior staffer in another department advocated war on a nominally libertarian website. The American Conservative was one of the few publications to stand on principle, despite the resulting torrent of insults and obloquy.

Of course, Iraq was not the Bush administration’s only misadventure. Dubya also imagined that Afghanistan could be turned into a liberal democracy, a shining city on a Central Asian hill. Instead of making a deal with the demoralized, defeated Taliban, the faux warrior president left American troops in Afghanistan, fighting to turn that ancient land half a world away into a U.S. client and military base. This effort, too, came to a calamitous end. There, as in Iraq, other people paid the highest price for Washington’s arrogance and incompetence.

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