Some pundits were just wrong, not irrational

26 Mar

I agree with almost everything Kathleen Geier writes in her devastating takedown of the pundit class and their views on the Iraq War:

Pundits like to imagine that they take political positions only after a careful consideration of the merits — listening to arguments, studying position papers, weighing the pros and cons, and coming to a decision.

But politics is not necessarily so rational, and never was irrationality more plainly on display than in the months leading up to the Iraq War. Ten years later, it is worth exploring why so many opinion-makers – including those who were otherwise critical of the Bush administration — passionately advocated war.

For at least some leading pundits, their position seems to have been shaped less by “reason” or “ideas” than something more primal and even tribal, reflecting their fantasies about who they imagined themselves to be. What follows is a taxonomy of certain pundits on the center and the left who, to their eternal shame, beat the drums of war — hard.

Yet her argument fails to persuade me in two important respects. First, it seems predicated on the belief that there was no rational reason for someone on the left or right to support the war. Although the war’s aftermath has confirmed most of the author’s prior beliefs, this does not mean that a pundit who supported the war was a hack then and remains one now. Support for the war was and is a legitimate position, even if was as wrong then as it is now.
Second, she seems to equate a view that the war was necessary with warmongering. Time has proven that the war was not necessary, but in 2003 that was a legitmate question. Faced with a much larger and more vocal peace movement than the media seem to remember existed in 2003, it is not at all inconceivable that some pundits got a little defensive about being attacked for their views. Such defensiveness should not be equated with passion for war without clear evidence.

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