From The “Experts” Who Brought You The Iraq War

by Patrick Appel

Waldman mocks the Weekly Standard‘s call for war:

[I]n case you were on the fence about whether the American government should take military action in Syria, Kristol has returned with an open letter urging President Obama to get bombing post-haste, and go big. You can find the letter on the Weekly Standard‘s website, where it runs under the not-sarcastic headline, “Experts to Obama: Here is what to do in Syria.” Among the “experts” are not only Kristol himself, but a whole bunch of folks with a nuanced grasp of the subtleties of Middle East politics and a track record of wise counsel on matters of war. People like Iran-Contra criminal Elliot Abrams, evangelical leader Gary Bauer, former seat-warming senator Norm Coleman, French gadabout Bernard-Henri Levi, foreign-policy genius Karl Rove, and presidential laughingstock Tim Pawlenty, not to mention the hilariously named Arch Puddington, who apparently is an actual person and not a character from a children’s book.

Scott Lemineux piles on:

I’m not 100% sure that military intervention in Syria is wrong. But it is true that 1. al-Assad is terrible 2. ????? 3. Bomb lots of stuff! is a terrible argument, and the arguments — really assumptions — in the above letter have scarcely more meat on them. There should be a very strong presumption against military action, but instead it’s the one form of government action that doesn’t seem to face any kind of cost-benefit analysis in our political discourse at all.

Conor joins the chorus:

I’d never claim to be a foreign policy expert. But I know enough to scoff when The Weekly Standard grants ”expert” status to Karl Rove, and to discount the prognostication skills of everyone that urged American intervention in Iraq without the faintest idea of what would follow. But in D.C., expert status is never taken away for being repeatedly, catastrophically wrong.

In response to the Weekly Standard, Fallows names the military thinkers he trusts:

Whose advice would I like to hear? Andrew Bacevich’s, for one. And it turns out he has already weighed in.  For another, Jim Webb. I’ll ask him, but there is this clue from last year. Or Anthony Zinni, whom I will try to locate. Significantly, unlike virtually all of the experts urging “surgical” intervention, these are people who have fought in wars themselves or been responsible for their aftermath. Perhaps Robert Gates too — and now that I look, I see how he is leaning. Or James Mattis — and, as it turns out, his instincts are the same. Also Gary Hart, who has just written in a similar vein, for instance: “The use of force is not a policy; it is a substitute for policy.”

So: the men who gave us Iraq on one hand, the people who were against it or far more cautious on the other. Let’s give the tie-breaking vote to Dwight Eisenhower, from up in heaven. One guess about what he would recommend.