As the drumbeat to do something about the militant group ISIS gets louder, it’s worth remembering the run up to the context in which ISIS arose–the aftermath of our failed conquest of Iraq. A key factor, then and now, was a punditariat that was absolutely terrified of more terrorist attacks, as demonstrated by this exchange between columnist Joe Klein and media reporter Howie Kurtz (boldface mine):
KLEIN: Yes, this could be an incredibly dangerous war for journalists. But then, you know, we’re in a situation that’s fairly dangerous for those of us who live in places like New York and Washington.
KURTZ: That’s right. What used to be considered only a threat for journalists who actually put the helmets on and went out with the troops, that has changed in the age of terrorism.
As ridiculous as Klein’s and Kurtz’s statements are (Kalorama is not the Hindu Kush), what’s breathtaking is the narcissism. This is how emotionally stunted teenagers react. So many opinion shapers–who seem to have learned nothing from their mistakes–superimposed their fears, their neuroses, their delusions of grandeur onto what needed to be a serious, thoughtful response.
From what I’ve been reading recently, nothing has changed. Let’s not even start with the saber waving towards Russia, which is a nuclear-armed power–we barely survived the last go-around. We seem to have done a complete flip-flop: a year those who supported the opposition to Bashir al-Assad in Syria, which included the evildoers of ISIS, now want to destroy ISIS. Once again, being wrong for the right reasons is a necessary qualification for foreign policy ‘seriousness.’
Simply put, our Very Serious People always get it wrong. This time, it’s on us if we listen to them.