To my knowledge, I had never read Megan McArdle until her latest, flailing attempts to justify just which sorts of past rightness and wrongness can be instructive and just which sorts should drift into our collective forgetting led her to pen some of the most curious paragraphs ever written:
Obviously, there are people who were right about the war for the right reasons, and we should examine what their thought process was--not merely the conclusions they came to, but how they got there. Other peoples' opposition was animated by principles that may be right, but aren't really very helpful: the pacifists, the isolationists, the reflexive opponents of Republicans or the US military. Within the limits on foreign policy in a hegemonic power, these just aren't particularly useful, again, regardless of whether you are metaphysically correct.Of course, you can understand what that first excerpted paragraph is trying to do: it's trying to draw situational limits on valid political thought. There are Republicans; we are a hegemonic power; ergo, we must argue in a world where the somewhat more militant political faction in America eggs the nation on to various aggressive foreign wars in a futile effort to maintain the current alignment of global power as the Washington consensus imagines it to be. Those are narrow straits indeed in which to argue, and since most serious and sincere opponents of the Occupation oppose it as part and parcel of a larger moral, political, and intellectual opposition to the American hegemonic project soi-même, it has the added (dis)advantage of invalidating pretty much all but the tepid, procedural opposition of certain players in Democratic politics. That is the natural goal of those who were wrong and who will not admit contrition or atonement into their universe, who wish to remain "respected" participants in the conversation. Failures of implementation or failures of design don't necessarily undermine principles. If the problem with the invasion and occupation was bad execution, then Megan McArdle and the rest of the wrong-stop train can continue the debased conversation that sees war as one more Six Sigma event, with no more moral import or actual, human toll than the production of cell phones or new processes for the Outside Sales Department.
"It won't work" is the easiest prediction to get right; almost nothing does. The thought process that tells you something probably won't work is not always a good way to figure out what will, even if you were right for the right reasons, as I agree lots of people were. That's why libertarians have a great track record at predicting which government programs will fail (almost all of them) and a lousy track record at designing ones that do work.
The second paragraph then proposes a vast swath of straw men whose argument against butchering hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, destroying their physical nation, sending millions into internal and external exile, and embarking upon the long-term occupation of a nation a half a world away was, in McArdle's goofy estimation, really just a variation on Murphy's Law. That is probably a pleasant fantasy for someone who principally objects to the view that the Iraq "project" was inherently doomed because that view lacks some requisite, Roccoco complexity. "Almost nothing [goes right]." Well, I guess. Doesn't it depend on the meaning of "nothing"? In any case, those like myself who said not simply that the invasion of Iraq would fail to achieve either its stated or its actual goals, but that it must fail to achieve them, were not arguing from some universalist principal of incompetence, but rather from the rich recent history of commensurate projects and their innate tendency to fail. Indeed, one of the most common charges levelled against war opponents by jingoes was that our historical analogizing was irrelevant. "Iraq is not Vietnam." "Iraq is not Algeria." "Iraq is not Afghanistan and the Soviets." Etc. And of course, Iraq turned out to be all of those things, and more--it could no more be otherwise than I could fly by flapping my arms. The people supporting invasion and occupation were the ones proposing that Iraq would be a single, vastly distant historical outlier, totally devoid of precedent or context, and those who thought that the mere incompetence of the administration, or its untrustworthiness, were substantive arguments against invading were almost universally people who wished (and still wish) to hedge their bets just in case it all worked out. McArdle says that only this latter sort are worth talking to because they were right for the right reasons, but the opposite is true.
People who supported the invasion of Iraq were fatuous, bloodthirsty, ahistorical, immoral, politically naive, callous, unthinking, reprehensible morons--to the man. The proper attitude is contrition, silence, and contemplation. Making a gaudy spectacle of having "supported" something so awful, even if only to show how smart you were to change your mind when you noticed things going south, is disgusting.