Experts and the Middle East

From the old digs comes this post about how catastrophically wrong self-proclaimed ‘experts’ were on Iraq.
I will freely admit I’m no expert on the Middle East. Infectious disease. Yes. Evolutionary biology. Yes. The Middle East. Not exactly. While I speak a smattering of Arabic, can converse in Hebrew, and have actually been to that region–which sadly, makes more of an ‘expert’ than many of the right-wing bloviators–I hold no illusions about expertise (in part, because I am an expert in a couple of limited areas and know what expertise actually entails).

It’s always terrified me how many self-proclaimed experts got Iraq so catastrophically wrong. It was obvious, if you had ever read a book about Iraq, that the Iraqis wouldn’t welcome us with open arms, and that after a short while, some of them would start killing us. When physicists who know a thing or two about nuclear weapons say that there was no credible nuclear weapons program, we should have listened. It should have been obvious that, even if this could have worked, the Bush Administration would screw the pooch, like everything else it touches.
Given how obvious the outcome was, what Tristero writes is telling (and I’ve had similar conversations; italics mine):

Last night, I went to the annual dinner of a liberal group, and sat next to a very smart, very successful, and very well travelled man in his mid 60’s. I found him likable, talkative and in many ways, quite an interesting fellow.
He told us he supported the Bush/Iraq war because 9/11 was a wake-up call and it was inconceivable to him that the Bush administration would lie the United States into an invasion. Another reason: he had been in Cambodia and seen firsthand the capacity of human beings to do evil. Also, he said that during his lifetime, there was the Holocaust. If there was a chance to prevent that kind of horror from re-occurring, then he felt it was important to take that chance.
My mind started to reel from the effort of discerning what the connection was between Pol Pot’s atrocities and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Yes, they were both horrible and both were inflicted on innocents. But how did that lead one to conclude: “Invade Iraq?” And as catastrophic as the Holocaust was, I couldn’t figure out how the desire to prevent another such tragedy factored into his willingness to support the pre-emptive invasion and conquest of a country which, while brutal, had apparently given up gassing its citizens right around the time Donald Rumsfeld no longer was in a position to shake Saddam’s bloody hand.
There’s something about such reasoning that strikes me as profoundly illogical, as if history literally repeats itself and therefore we’re now getting a second chance to “get it right.” Time The Revelator (in Gillian Walsh’s brilliant phrase) has other tricks up Her sleeve and never repeats, only cycles.
I tried to interrupt – as I said, he was talkative. But when he claimed that the Middle East had been “deadlocked for years,” I saw my chance, “What’s so bad about a deadlock? It certainly beats sheer chao…” and then he repeated everything in the first paragraph again. He seemed calm to me as he went through his reasons, but I noticed he spilled some wine on what looked to be a rather pricey shirt. He dropped his fork just a mite too loudly on his plate.
My friend on the other side managed to slip in, “Y’know, Tristero got it right from the start. He knew Bush was lying. He was right. And he was worried about the aftermath from the start.”
“So, you were right,” he said, a little bit of anger now creeping into his voice.
“Yes, I was right, and I knew I had to be right from the beginning, in 2002 and 2003,” I said, with not a trace of false modesty – or any other kind.
“Okay,” he rapidly wiped his lips with a napkin. “You know, a stopped watch is right twice a day.”
“True,” I said, “but I wasn’t a stopped watch about Iraq.”
Eyes blinked, but he didn’t skip a beat.
“Okay, you were right. I ‘ll grant you that. You were right when the rest of us were wrong…”
“Well, actually…” I was trying to tell him that in fact the majority of the world opposed the invasion and I was simply in the majority, but I couldn’t. He was angry and unstoppable.
No, no, let me ask you a question. How come you, a musician, maybe a good one, maybe a well-read one, but a musician with no training in affairs of state – how come you of all people were right about Iraq but the most respected, most experienced, most intelligent, most serious thinkers in the United States got it wrong?”
“That is a question I ask myself every day, because it scares the daylights out of me,” I replied.

Everyone who supported this stupid war should be placed under a ‘pundit embargo’ and banned from op-ed pages and TV appearances. Let’s listen to the people who got it right.
‘Troll-Be-Gone’: I’m not saying that Saddam wasn’t a monster; he was. But there are many monsters in the world. If you think we should ‘invade them all’, stop reading my blog, and get your ass down to the recruiting station.

This entry was posted in Experts, Fucking Morons, Iraq, Middle East. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Experts and the Middle East

  1. Alan Gregory says:

    I’m continually amazed at the stupid herd-mentality of some of my fellow Amuricans:
    – Watching from the sidelines as James Baker III and the Supremes select Bush 2 the first time around.
    – Accepting Bush 2’s blatthering nonsense about how he can best fight terrorism.
    – Accepting, without question, the smear campaign that undid John Kerry’s candidacy.
    – Not screaming in righteous indignation over Halliburton’s no-bid contracts.
    – Believing the Cheney/Bush team’s fibs about Iraq’s WMD’s (aluminum tubes and a tractor-trailer?)
    A nation of sheep. That’s what we live in today.
    A closing thought: It’s not oil we’re addicted to (as Bush so famously pronounced not too long ago). It’s the gawdam automobile.

  2. Monado says:

    Interestingly, I happened on this blog post from 2004 by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, called “Why is that white-bearded man interrupting Ted Koppel’s Town Meeting?”. In it he explains how the supposedly “neutral” town meeting was packed with military supporters and how comments were previewed to ensure that they were from the “right” side. So ol’ Ted gives a false impression of the popular mood.

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