Reluctant (and Later Apologetic) Liberal Iraq Hawk Says Onward to Syria!


Credible, serious. |||

The Obama administration will have a hard time cobbling together even a modicum of popular support for the (inevitable, IMO) U.S. military intervention into Syria without a re-mobilization of that once-noisy but recently scarce tribe of armchair agitators known as the Liberal Hawks. Right on cue comes Bill Keller in today's New York Times, making the argument that "Syria Is Not Iraq." Which is, I suppose, a much more succinct headline than "Listen to Me About Bombing a Middle Eastern Country in 2013 Even Though I Was Totally Wrong About it in 2003."

Keller was an opinion columnist in the run-up to the Iraq War, during which time he christened himself a charter member of the "I-Can't-Believe-I'm-a-Hawk Club," a group of world-weary yet responsible souls "who have little in common with President Bush" but "have articulated the case for war better than the administration itself." Many of the "wary warmongers," Keller informed us, "are baby-boom liberals whose aversion to the deployment of American power was formed by Vietnam but who had a kind of epiphany along the way." If there is a Baby Boomerer sentence than that, I haven't encountered it.

Eight years later, after completing a stint as executive editor of The Times and returning to the opinion business, Keller gave us a long, juvenile account of how he had come to support what he now called "a monumental blunder" (hint: "The rest of us were still a little drugged by testosterone"). That navel-inspection exercise concluded that the "costly wisdom of Iraq" required a more cautionary approach, then applied to Libya, to go "more carefully through the mess, weighing the urge to support freedom against the cost of becoming part of a drama we don't fully understand."

Ah, but Keller was so much older then!

[I]n Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.

The United States has supplied humanitarian aid and diplomatic pressure. But our reluctance to arm the rebels or defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes has convinced the Assad regime (and the world) that we are not serious. […]

Whatever we decide, getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq. 

You would think that "getting over Iraq" would also mean getting over the elementary school-style argumentation about war demonstrating "credibility" and seriousness, but perhaps it's unsporting to stand between a man and his epiphanies.  

Read Reason's symposium on the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq War.