Something borrowed

That’s the post. I borrowed almost all of this from someone with more time and a New York Times account to illustrate a point we’ve been trying to make in recent weeks. Most major pundits have been disastrously wrong about Iraq. Wrong in the sense of having held beliefs that (1) did not at the time correspond with reality; and (2) made predictions that did not turn out to be the case and never were likely to turn out to be the case; but most disturbingly, (3) rather than defend the cogency of their own positions they ridiculed those who didn’t have the nous or the spine to agree with them or see things their way. So two examples of the wisdom of David Brooks courtesy of Matthew Yglesias

>1. April 10 2004:

>Come on people, let’s get a grip.

>This week, Chicken Littles like Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were ranting that Iraq is another Vietnam. Pundits and sages were spinning a whole series of mutually exclusive disaster scenarios: Civil war! A nationwide rebellion!

>January 25, 2007:

>Iraq is at the beginning of a civil war fought using the tactics of genocide, and it has all the conditions to get much worse. As a Newsweek correspondent, Christian Caryl, wrote recently from Baghdad, “What’s clear is that we’re far closer to the beginning of this cycle of violence than to its end.” As John Burns of The Times said on “Charlie Rose” last night, “Friends of mine who are Iraqis — Shiite, Sunni, Kurd — all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that would absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now.”

In April 2004 Brooks attacks the people who suggested imminent disaster (and who were right about it) on the grounds that civil war and national rebellion are logically exclusive. As we have learned–they’re not; it’s possible for all of the Iraqis to fight each other and us at the same time.

>2. September 18, 2004:

>As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army. They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are much better equipped to win an insurgency war.

>January 25, 2007:

>The weakness of the Bush surge plan is that it relies on the Maliki government to somehow be above this vortex. But there are no impartial institutions in Iraq, ready to foster reconciliation. As ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes in The Weekly Standard, the Shiite finance ministries now close banks that may finance Sunni investments. The Saadrist health ministries dismiss Sunni doctors. The sectarian vortex is not fomented by extremists who are appendages to society. The vortex is through and through.

“As we saw in El Salvador. . . ” shows the distance Brooks’s mind had to travel to come up with an analogy. A bad one. El Salvador bears no significant resemblance to Iraq to ground such a comparison. Besides who was it who claimed that “violence is the best way to change things”? I can think of one person.