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Once More, with Feeling

There's nothing wrong with having been spectacularly wrong on Iraq. It's what the antiwar crowd has done since April 9 that's unforgivable.

12:48 AM, Apr 24, 2003 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Few of the people who opposed the war on grounds which have now been proved specious have made good. The New York Times's Nicholas Kristof went halfway, writing a column that acknowledged that he was wrong about the war becoming a bitter urban conflict. But he is quick to claim that while he and other antiwar voices were wrong, those that advocated the war were as well:

No one got the level of resistance quite right. We doves correctly foresaw that the war would not be a cakewalk, but for all our hand-wringing, there was never prolonged street-to-street fighting in Baghdad.

The ones who really blew it were the superraptors like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and, to a lesser extent, Paul Wolfowitz . . .

It's not clear what constitutes a cakewalk--or even that Kristof's "superraptors" ever promised one--but any honest appraisal of the war would conclude that the three-week conquest of Iraq was closer to a walkover than the quagmire Kristof predicted.

Give Kristof credit: he at least admits that he was wrong, even if he wrongly insists the other side was, too. The same can't be said of many others. Even as Saddam's statue was being toppled on April 9, Salon's Joan Walsh passed immediately over the war and on to the next political clash: "We can cheer the Iraqis' liberation--and gear up to fight to make sure it's authentic, as the Pentagon draws up plans for postwar, post-Saddam Iraq."

William Raspberry's April 14 column was boldly titled "No Apologies," and he delivered:

Those who thought it was a bad idea for America to launch what was the moral equivalent of unilateral war on Iraq have nothing to apologize for. . . .

Shouldn't the prime minister and all of us who thought the war was hasty and dangerous and wrongheaded admit that we were wrong? I mean, with the pictures of those Iraqis dancing in the streets, hauling down statues of Saddam Hussein and gushing their thanks to the Americans, isn't it clear that President Bush and Britain's Tony Blair were right all along? If we believe it's a good thing that Hussein's regime has been dismantled, aren't we hypocritical not to acknowledge Bush's superior judgment?

Not at all.

Yet Walsh and Raspberry and others who opposed the war want to immediately weigh in on the next big questions. Walsh writes that

Rumsfeld wanted to fight the war "on the cheap" not because the Pentagon is broke, but because the administration's outrageous new military doctrine of preemption requires it. What good is declaring you're for preemptive protective strikes if you can't go in and prove you mean it? The new Bush doctrine required that the war in Iraq be a cakewalk, so as to send a message to our enemies in Iran, Syria, North Korea--wherever evildoers lurk--that they must tremble before our crushing military might. And if they didn't get the message, we would have enough troops and firepower left over from Iraq to deliver it more directly.

Raspberry harrumphs that

The neoconservative ideologues who brought us this war have spoken publicly and repeatedly about the need to go the rest of the way toward replacing all the Middle East dictatorships with democratic governments--whether or not we are invited to do so.

Is Syria next? Iran? Egypt?

But why should anyone take them seriously? They've been proven wrong on the question of the day and then failed to demonstrate any serious capacity for introspection. They're not public thinkers. They're not journalists. They're activists.

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.