Mistakes

In The Panic Over Iraq by Norman Podhoretz, the subject of mistakes is discussed (among many other things). There has been a continuing harangue for the President to apologize for these mistakes. The lack of apologies and the absence of even admitting mistakes is then taken as a grievous indication of malfeasance and incompetence. Take a look at these “mistakes” starting with a qualification.

at the risk of exposing myself as another highly educated fool, I must confess that I too think we need to be reminded that mistakes happen in all wars,

the main one is based on an outright falsification of the facts. This is the accusation that no thought was given to what would happen once we got to Baghdad and no plans were therefore made for dealing with the aftermath of the combat phase. Yet the plain truth is that much thought was given to, and many plans were made for dealing with, horrors that everyone expected to happen and then, mercifully, did not. Among these were: house-to-house fighting to take Baghdad; the flight of a million or more refugees; the setting of the oil fields afire; and the outbreak of a major civil war.

A related group of alleged “mistakes” turn out on closer inspection to be judgment calls, concerning which it is possible for reasonable men to differ. The most widely circulated of these—especially among supporters of the war on the Right—is that there were too few American “boots on the ground” to mount an effective campaign against the insurgency.

Finally, there are “mistakes” that were actually choices between two evils—choices that had to be made when it was by no means obvious which was the lesser of the two. The best example here is the policy of “de-Baathification.”

It is one thing to have an opinion and another to cast judgment. Allegations of mistakes are matters of casting judgment. They imply that the accuser is better informed and otherwise superior to be able to decide what is a mistake and define what is a matter of truth rather than opinion. This is called hubris when taken to extreme.

Podhoretz’s classification of Bush ‘mistakes’ can also be called the dishonest, the differing opinions, and the political hay categories. Those who take umbrage in casting judgment do so by distorting reality, misrepresenting their opinions as truth, or picking out circumstances to demogogue those they do not like.

The first step in getting to the bottom of things is to recognize that the presumption of mistakes is a given so that raising the point must have a reason to discover. If the allegation of mistakes is accompanied by pleas for admission of guilt and apology, then it can be considered a request for submission and surrender.

In regards to Iraq, it is particularly of note that those asking the President to submit and surrender to his political opponents are also demanding that the country retreat in defeat from Iraq.

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