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Andrew Sullivan finds another person who was wrong, too...

Andrew Sullivan, who has recently pulled a Full MacNamara on the war in Iraq, seems to still be retreading the old reasons to justify his original support. While I'm in favour of owning up to one's errors, and I'll admit respect for Sullivan for doing so, being so public a figure in the blogoshpere, I think at a certain point it might be better to just stop dredging up justifications for the initial error and just leave it at "I screwed up".

Today he pulls a quote out of the final editorial from Bill Emmott, the departing editor of the Economist, a magazine that threw its weight, considerable in some circles, behind the invasion three years ago. The most relevent portion of the editorial, the same chunk that Sullivan extracted, with my emphasis, is:

This will outrage some readers, but I still think the decision was correct—based on the situation at that time, which is all it could have been based on. The risk of leaving Saddam in power was too high. Outside intervention in other countries' affairs is difficult, practically, legally and morally. It should be done only in exceptional circumstances, and backed by exceptional efforts. Iraq qualified on the former. George Bush let us—and America—down on the latter. So, however, did other rich countries: whatever they thought of the invasion, they had a powerful interest in sorting out the aftermath. Most shirked it.

The only argument against our decision that seems to me to have force is that a paper whose scepticism about government drips from every issue should have been sceptical about Mr Bush's government and its ability to do things properly in Iraq. This is correct: we should have been, and we were. But when the choice is between bad options and worse ones, a choice must still be made. Great enterprises can fail—but they fail twice over if they take away our moral courage and prevent us from rising to the next challenge.

In short, it shows acceptance of the "facts" that lead the American public and Congress into war and then condemns its execution - we've seen this in other mea culpas recently. Short version - we did the right thing based on the evidence (sic) that we had at the time, but how were we to know how badly this would go? Well, hmmm, let's see. The evidence was widely reported to be bogus at the time, and there has been precious little revealed since to indicate that the Administration did anything but strain the facts to fit the argument.

Oh, Andrew and Bill, I do hope that this little bump in the road doesn't sap our moral courage when the next challenge arises. I'll leave whether or not tens of thousands dead, a great power isolated, and a nation in disarray is going to be seen as a "great enterprise" to the reader to decide.


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