The topic of this post belongs to my Surreal Files. It is about the Liberal pundits who supported the invasion of Iraq as an obvious consequence of mostly Saudi terrorists attacking this country.
Bill Keller was one of these birds which he now regrets. The blame, he suggests, goes to male hormones.
But my prudent punditry soon felt inadequate. I remember a mounting protective instinct, heightened by the birth of my second daughter almost exactly nine months after the attacks. Something dreadful was loose in the world, and the urge to stop it, to do something — to prove something — was overriding a career-long schooling in the virtues of caution and skepticism. By the time of Alice’s birth I had already turned my attention to Iraq, a place that had, in the literal sense, almost nothing to do with 9/11, but which would be its most contentious consequence. And I was no longer preaching “the real-world vigilance of intelligence and law enforcement.”Later in his article Keller refers directly to testosterone:
During the months of public argument about how to deal with Saddam Hussein, I christened an imaginary association of pundits the I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club, made up of liberals for whom 9/11 had stirred a fresh willingness to employ American might. It was a large and estimable group of writers and affiliations, including, among others, Thomas Friedman of The Times; Fareed Zakaria, of Newsweek; George Packer and Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker; Richard Cohen of The Washington Post; the blogger Andrew Sullivan; Paul Berman of Dissent; Christopher Hitchens of just about everywhere; and Kenneth Pollack, the former C.I.A. analyst whose book, “The Threatening Storm,” became the liberal manual on the Iraqi threat. (Yes, it is surely relevant that this is exclusively a boys’ club.)
In several columns I laid out justifications for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. There were caveats — most significantly, that there was no reason to rush, that we should hold off to see whether Iraq’s behavior could be sufficiently contained by sanctions and inspections. Like many liberal hawks, I was ambivalent; Pollack said he was 55 to 45 for war, which feels about right.
But when the troops went in, they went with my blessing. Of course I don’t think President Bush was awaiting permission from The New York Times’s Op-Ed page — or, for that matter, from my friends in the Times newsroom, who during the prewar debate published some notoriously credulous stories about Iraqi weapons. The administration, however, was clearly pleased to cite the liberal hawks as evidence that invading Iraq was not just the impetuous act of cowboy neocons. Thus did Tony Judt in 2006 coin another, unkinder name for our club: “Bush’s Useful Idiots.”
“I was particularly struck by the tape-recording of an intelligence intercept that Powell played — a phone conversation in which one Iraqi Republican Guard officer tells another to clean out a site before the inspectors get there,” Kaplan recalled. We learned much later that the Iraqi officers wanted to erase traces of chemical weapons that had been stored before the first gulf war. Kaplan dropped out of the hawk club within a month when he concluded that, whether or not an invasion was morally justified, he doubted the Bush administration was up to the task. The rest of us were still a little drugged by testosterone. And maybe a little too pleased with ourselves for standing up to evil and defying the caricature of liberals as, to borrow a phrase from those days, brie-eating surrender monkeys.I'm not sure if Keller means his hormonal excuses to be taken seriously. But let's take them that way. What is he really saying here?
That men are not to be trusted when it comes to wars because they will go all protective and goofy with hormones, they will set their logical brain aside and replace it with the Helmet of He-Men. That you can pull the strings of Liberal male pundits by suggesting that they are not masculine enough, not good at groin-scratching or burping or pissing competitions. That nothing is as painful as being called a brie-eating surrender monkey.
No, Keller does not mean any of that. If he did, he would advocate having only women in power when it comes to deciding about wars. Oops! I forgot. Women are too emotional to be given keys to nuclear weapons.
Ruth Rosen has written more carefully on these topics and Greg Mitchell on the general contents of Keller's piece. What I wish to do with the rest of this post is to look at the way one person of girly persuasion looked at these issues: Me.
And that was by using logic. It was illogical to invade Iraq right after 911 events, in particular when the most likely culprits were not in Iraq but in Afghanistan and when a second war-front meant splitting resources away from the most burning problem of that year.
Completely and utterly illogical, unless one accepted that the Iraq invasion was something George Bush had long planned to undertake the minute he became a president, and unless the reasons for it had much more to do with the oil under the sands of Iraq and the personal grudges the Bush family may have held. But accepting that as the internal logic of the administration did not turn the invasion of Iraq into a good plan.