Five Years Later, Liberal Hawks Reconsider Iraq… Well Most of Them

Over at Slate, six liberal hawks on how they got Iraq wrong:

How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I’m proud of my service there, but now it’s time for us to leave,” by Phillip Carter. Posted March 18, 2008.

How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I forgot that security must come first if democracy is to come later,” by Josef Joffe. Posted March 18, 2008.

How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I thought we had a chance to stabilize an unstable region, and—I admit it—I wanted to strike back,” by Richard Cohen. Posted March 18, 2008.

How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I trusted Colin Powell and his circumstantial evidence—for a little while,” by Fred Kaplan. Posted March 17, 2008.

How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I underestimated the self-centeredness and sectarianism of the ruling elite and the social impact of 30 years of extreme dictatorship,” by Kanan Makiya. Posted March 17, 2008.

How Did I Get Iraq Wrong? I didn’t,” by Christopher Hitchens. Posted March 17, 2008.

And one ex-New Lefty (wow, written out, there’s a description where both the original and the prefixed seem terms of derision) Christopher Hitchens on how he didn’t:

None of these positive developments took place without a good deal of bungling and cruelty and unintended consequences of their own. I don’t know of a satisfactory way of evaluating one against the other any more than I quite know how to balance the disgrace of Abu Ghraib, say, against the digging up of Saddam’s immense network of mass graves. There is, however, one position that nobody can honestly hold but that many people try their best to hold. And that is what I call the Bishop Berkeley theory of Iraq, whereby if a country collapses and succumbs to trauma, and it’s not our immediate fault or direct responsibility, then it doesn’t count, and we are not involved. Nonetheless, the very thing that most repels people when they contemplate Iraq, which is the chaos and misery and fragmentation (and the deliberate intensification and augmentation of all this by the jihadists), invites the inescapable question: What would post-Saddam Iraq have looked like without a coalition presence?

To editorialize, I think that a post-Saddam Iraq without coalition presence would have looked a lot better if only because a board cross-sectarian, cross-ethnic coalition in Iraq–with internal rules on disagreement and decision making–would have been necessary to overthrow a Ba’athist state.  Call it the Solidarnosc  (Poland) model of overthrowing a dictatorship, where, at least in that case, the seeds of democratic  coexistence was developed and instituted inside the movement itself.