Motives

Johann Hari, a former left-wing Iraq hawk like myself, turns a review of a book by Nick Cohen, current left-wing Iraq hawk, into the opportunity for a great essay on the phenomenon. My main disagreement is that I think Hari overemphasizes the idea that democracy, freedom, etc. aren't important subjective aims of Bush, Cheney, neoconservatism etc.

I spent a lot of time puzzling over Bush's sincerity or lack thereof with regard to his idealistic rhetoric before the war, and in retrospect it was all wasted time. It's interesting to wonder how it's possible -- or if it's possible -- for a man to speak grand words about liberty in the morning and defending systematic torture in the afternoon, but it's not actually relevant. The main point was that there was simply never any good reason to believe the more idealistic aspiration sometimes associated with the war had any decent prospects of success. It was fundamentally dumb to think that invading and conquering Iraq could turn it into a stable liberal democracy if only we wanted it badly enough and that the main issue was whether or not Bush "really" wanted it. It was just fundamentally a dumb idea, and that's what I should have seen at the time. It still seems to me that Bush may well have been dumb enough to sincerely believe in it on some level, but it was still dumb -- that's what matters.

Defense Department photo courtesy of Ping News.

Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis. The only problem? He has to prove it works.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Politics

Just In