Jonathan Rauch shambles through the familiar obstacle course of the archetypal "I was wrong about Iraq" mea kinda culpa before revealing himself at last to be one more deranged Platonist:
I do not regret giving the president authority; I regret giving this president authority. I am sorry. I made a mistake five years ago. But not about the vote. About the leader.How I love the realm of pure fucking forms. Gawd, how I fucking love it!
Those of us tethered to the material world, alas, must operate by different standards. One notes in the first place that replacing one definite article with another--even when you italicize it!--does not in fact change the meaning of the sentence. Presidents. The thing about them is that we only have one at any given time. The President, this President. Whatever, dude.
It's worth considering how Johnny went astray:
As I came to the 2002-2003 Iraq debate, I was determined not to make the same mistake twice. Another Bush was president, and the younger one looked as decisive as his father had once seemed dotty. This, after all, was the George W. Bush who had impressively rallied the nation and the world after September 11.More useless than a Democrat? How about a professional writer? With no particular experience in the actual hierarchies of ordinary human institutions, they see "decisiveness" as a concrete characteristic, a nominalized adjective that has a discrete meaning. Those of us who operate in the seamier world of the, ahem, free market recognize such qualities as who-moved-my-cheese euphemisms for "that jackass district manager who has the loud cell phone conversations that we all suspect might be fake." "Judicious" is a compliment. "Decisive" is a curse.
His foreign-policy team looked easily the equal of his father's, or anybody's. Vice President Cheney was the wise man of Washington and the elder Bush's successful Defense secretary. Secretary of State Colin Powell was the magisterial architect of the Gulf War. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was the man whose plan had worked like a charm in Afghanistan. If Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, was not the equal of her 1990 predecessor, Brent Scowcroft, she was no lightweight. Surely if any war Cabinet could inspire confidence, this was it.
Wrong again. Zero for two.
George W. Bush had more than his share of bad luck in Iraq. He bet that Saddam would have an active nuclear or at least biological-weapons program; that Iraq's social and physical infrastructure would be functional; that the war would be short. None of those bets was crazy, but he lost all three.
Likewise "impressively rallied." I once went to high school, and have attended a pep rally or two in my time. Alas, no matter how high the cheerleaders kicked and how loudly we yelled, our poor Mustangs lost year after year after year.
At last, there is nothing less wise than a "wise old man of Washington." The prepositional phrase gives it away, as such phrases often do. Colin Powell was hardly the sole architect of the first Gulf War, and his personal failings--especially the depths of his obsequiousness and cowardice--are now manifest to everyone. Rumsfeld was always quite clearly insane to anyone who chose to listen to the words as they left his ever-wagging mouth, and Condoleeze Rice was a mediocre scholar whose field of study was a defunct empire. Hot damn.
As for the bets. Reader, they were all crazy.
If you read Rauch's piece, what you realize is that all these mistakes and false premises weren't the sort of thing that a person arrives at independently. Raunch might as well have said, "In the run-up to war, I validated the opinions of the Post editorial board to myself, and thus satisfied due dilligence." Conclusions about the "impressive" cabinet and the President's rallying power are not things that real human beings arrive at indepently. Catechisms aren't conclusions, kids.
Rauch writes for Reason and they're all purportedly libertarians, or something of the sort, so the idea that a war to remake an entire society from the ground up through central planning would--you'd think--strike 'em as a bit of a questionable enterprise. The idea that this Soviet project could be redeemed by a better Leader is even whackier. Scratch a Republican, I once said, and find an onanist. Scratch a Reasonoid libertarian, evidently, and find an apparatchik