An Honest Neocon

There are few, alas, who haven't succumbed to the lure of spinning and power. But here's one:

"I don't want to sound pompous, but I think it is important that when one makes arguments of consequences that he go and see what those consequences are. Having championed the war, I wanted to see the products of my own argument. I felt an obligation to stay with the story. After the invasion the story changed of course: from whether or not to invade to the war itself. So I decided to cover the war and had some very vivid experiences in the process that really altered my thinking. Before the war Iraq was an abstraction, an idea. Once you have seen the place you can't help but be much more cautious with the ideas that you put on the table."

That's my friend, Lawrence Kaplan, in Der Spiegel. It's a brutally honest interview from a brutally honest person, and a friend. Lawrence sees Petraeus as a great general, and I cannot and would not dispute that.

He also thinks that, with an open time-line, the possibility of an Iraq better than we found it is possible. But with an open time-line, that could be said of almost any benighted place. With limited resources and without an explicit commitment to a new empire, Lawrence's bottom line is:

I don't see anything good that's come from this war, I'm afraid.

This too:

Everybody wants to be free. But obviously, in Iraq this assumption ran into a wall. Now why is that? One camp in the US argues it's the implementation and the American incompetence that doomed the enterprise. Others, and mostly Iraqi liberals, say: No, you could have done everything in the world and Iraq would still be a mess because the Iraqis, as a result of their specific history, are not ready for democracy. So whose fault is it -- the Americans' or the Iraqis'? I think both. I also think that the Iraq experience has set back the cause of idealism in American foreign policy and the willingness of Western countries to intervene for humanitarian reasons. Take Darfur: I think it's because of Iraq that nobody wants to intervene there. So on the whole the effects have been huge and overwhelmingly negative. I don't see anything good that's come from this war, I'm afraid.