In today's New York Times, the grizzled warrior David Brooks performs a chest-beating war dance over Afghanistan of the type he and his tough guy comrades perfected in the run-up to the Iraq War. It's filled with self-glorifying "war-is-hell" neocon platitudes that make the speaker feel tough and strong. No more hiding like cowards in our bases. It's time to send "small groups of American men and women  outside the wire in dangerous places." Those opposing escalation are succumbing to the "illusion of the easy path." Chomping on a cigar in his war room, he roars: "all out or all in." The central question: will we "surrender the place to the Taliban?," etc. etc.
Needless to say, Brooks was writing all the same things in late 2002 and early 2003 about Iraq — though, back then, he did so from the pages of Rupert Murdoch and Bill Kristol's The Weekly Standard. When I went back to read some of that this morning, I was — as always — struck by how extreme and noxious it all was: the snide, hubristic superiority combined with absolute wrongness about everything. What people like David Brooks were saying back then was so severe — so severely wrong, pompous, blind, warmongering and, as it turns out, destructive — that no matter how many times one reviews the record of the leading opinion-makers of that era, one will never be inured to how poisonous they are.
All of this would be a fascinating study for historians if the people responsible were figures of the past. But they're not. They're the opposite. The same people shaping our debates now are the same ones who did all of that, and they haven't changed at all. They're doing the same things now that they did then. When you go read what they said back then, that's what makes it so remarkable and noteworthy. David Brooks got promoted within our establishment commentariat to The New York Times after (one might say: because of) the ignorant bile and amoral idiocy he continuously spewed while at The Weekly Standard. According to National Journal's recently convened "panel of Congressional and Political Insiders," Brooks is now the commentator who "who most help[s] to shape their own opinion or worldview" — second only to Tom "Suck On This" Friedman. Charles Krauthammer came in third. Ponder that for a minute.
Read the rest. The truly odd thing about all of this, as a friend of ours suggested, is that these people operate as if no one has access to their past writings on these matters. Odder than that is the fact that people do, and yet there they are.