Lettuce & Pickles

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

2/28/2006

Only Tomorrow

Via Josh Marshall, Peter Galbraith ruminates in the New York Review of Books on a line from the State of the Union Address (the second paragraph belongs to Josh):

'In his State of the Union address, President Bush told his Iraq critics, 'Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy.' His comments are understandable. Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush's shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power.'

A pretty crisp and concise description of a man who has been an utter failure as a leader, in almost every respect unimaginable. Hubris, ignorance, inability to lead or make hard decisions. The list is as bleak as it is long."

And all of that is well and good, possibly true even... But one suspects that the real meaning of 'Hindsight is not wisdom and second-guessing is not a strategy' has more to do with invalidating the past and insisting only on the eternal future where all is forgiven and no change need be made, a future where neo-conservative fantasies might actually have a chance of working out in the reality based world.

Bush is well aware that there were many people who saw exactly what the Iraq adventure would lead to and what would become of their plans, in real time and before the war was begun. Only by obfuscating the past and invalidating any reference to it (except in relation to the "threat" of terror) can he avoid the ramifications of reality.

What's at work in that sentence is something far more insidious and dangerous than the petty and ongoing corruption of his administration, what's going on is a denial of the past, the denial that anything can be learned from the past and that the past can have anything to offer the future.

You want to study how we got into this mess, what mistakes we made, which could have been avoided and which people pointed this out at the time (hello, Dr. Dean)? You want to evaluate what it was that caused the political and media establishment to ignore, indeed to trivialize the voices of reason in the run up to the war?

Let's pretend those real-time voices didn't exist, or that even though they were there at the time they somehow, after the passage of more time, become hindsight, second-guessing.

The failure of the policy now becomes the justification for the continuation of the policy, and where have we seen that one before?

It's just another manifestation of the memory hole that threatens our very democracy, because anything can be justified in its name... Only tomorrow exists, yesterday never happened.

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