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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

David Brooks, "Learning From Mistakes": Would You Strangle Hitler in His Crib?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Learning From Mistakes," David Brooks also addresses whether George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake. After inquiring whether we would strangle Hitler in his crib if we could go back in time, Brooks goes on to observe:

"History is an infinitely complex web of causations. To erase mistakes from the past is to obliterate your world now. You can’t go back and know then what you know now. You can’t step in the same river twice.

So it’s really hard to give simple sound-bite answers about past mistakes. The question, would you go back and undo your errors is unanswerable. It’s only useful to ask, what wisdom have you learned from your misjudgments that will help you going forward?"

Brooks proceeds to acknowledge that the Iraq invasion was a "clear misjudgment" which he supported at the time, but then asks what can be learned from this mistake. Brooks's "first lesson" is that "we should look at intelligence products with a more skeptical eye." More important, in my opinion is Brooks's "second lesson" concerning the question, "How much can we really change other nations?" In this regard, Brooks writes:

"After the 1990s, many of us were leaning in the interventionist direction. We’d seen the fall of the apartheid regime, which made South Africa better. We’d seen the fall of communist regimes, which made the Eastern bloc nations better. Many of us thought that, by taking down Saddam Hussein, we could end another evil empire, and gradually open up human development in Iraq and the Arab world."

I agree: By opposing apartheid, the US made South Africa "better." In addition, various Eastern bloc countries were ready for democracy and free market economies after the US helped shatter Soviet dominion over its Eastern European vassal states. On the other hand, US intervention in Iraq demonstrated that the Middle East's Sunnis and Shiites are not prepared to live together in harmonious democratic societies free of violence - not now and not for many moons to come.

But has Obama learned this lesson? He is willing to grant Iran the right to build a nuclear arsenal after ten years, based upon the supposition that this savage neighbor of Iraq can be coaxed into 21st century tolerance within that decade. But is this a good bet based on the lessons learned from Iraq? What's your opinion?

1 comment:

  1. How much has Obama changed America by imposing Rules of Engagement on police forces deemed to be "racist"?

    imho, "progessives" never learn from their mistakes - they just pass new laws, endlessly campaign their wisdom, and use the military and police as agents of social change, with suffocating ROE.


    Iraq would have been different if not for the idiotic decision to disband Saddam's army with no concurrent occupation.