June 18, 2008

Some people never learn:

“I don’t think the lessons of Iraq necessarily discredit liberal internationalism, or realism, or neoconservatism, or any of the many theories of U.S. engagement with the world that were invoked to justify support for the war. I don’t come away from the events of the last five years convinced that we should never intervene abroad on purely humanitarian grounds, or that we should never go to war without an international body’s authorization, or that the whole of American Middle East policy since 1991 (or 1945) has been discredited, or even that we should never launch wars of pre-emption. I come away from them convinced of a point that’s simultaneously narrower in scope, but more universal in its application: That whatever theory we take as our guide to international affairs, we need to proceed with greater caution than America displayed in the aftermath of 9/11 about the efficacy of military force, and the costs and consequences of using it.”

That’s someone named Ross Douthet, a blogger for The Atlantic: he’s supposed to be some sort of conservative, although what sort eludes me. Of course, if you go to The Atlantic for your conservative fix, then you’re probably the type who goes to McDonald’s for the salad. 

It’s the new conservatism, otherwise known as Bizarro-conservatism, which I’ve discussed before. In Bizarro World, up is down, right is left, and a conservative is someone who refuses to learn from history. Nothing is ever proven. We’ll still get to have plenty of preemptive fun, blowing up entire countries and rampaging throughout the Middle East,at least until we go bankrupt.

Bizarro-cons like Douthet like to dress up their essential nihilism in the grey, inauspicious garb of workaday pragmatism, but the hubris that is the fatal affliction of our ruling classes gives their game away. In short, a Bizarro-con is just another species of neocon, albeit one with much less flamboyant plumage. Our war-birds are a many-feathered lot, but all are united in their Bourbon determination to regret nothing, and learn nothning, from the past eight disastrous years.

American foreign policy, according to this view, is a roaring success, instead of the trainwreck it has become—because, in Bizarro terms, failure is success. By this measure, the invasion and occupation of Iraq is a triumph unequaled in our history, instead of the biggest military blunder since Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.

And, of course, in Bizarro World, neoconservatism is not discredited, as it would be in a universe that made sense. Instead, it has merely morphed into Bizarro-conservatism, a doctrine consonant with the unnaural laws of a parallel world so far removed from “the reality-based community” that the distance can only be measured in light-years.


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