Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stubborn Things

Do you remember "the reality-based community"?  The phrase, horrible in its resonance, emerged from a press interview with an anonymous member of the Bush administration -- who used it as a slur against those who argued for political and military calculation based on facts, rather than pure ideology.  The phrase came to serve as a bitter example of how arrogance and fantasy were combined in the catastrophic excesses of neo-conservatism.

In the years since, as the world has come to terms with the singular destruction wrought by the Bush years, there has been a modest retreat from the strategy of inventing one's own facts.  Despite the liberal bias attributed to it by Stephen Colbert, reality has come to enjoy a bit more credibility.  Even the former Bushies -- Dick Cheney notably excepted -- have come to take a muted tone, generally expressing some regret for their most delusional decisions.

Well, says former intelligence chief Stephen Cambone, count me out!  According to Wired's Danger Room blog, Cambone, who served from March 2011 forward as Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, "shocked" the Aspen Security Forum recently by declaring that, far from an ill-considered foreign adventure sold to the general public and the international diplomatic community alike with a tissue of misdirection, misinformation and outright fabrication, the Iraq invasion was in fact "one of the greatest strategic decisions of the first half of the 21st century."

Now, at first we assumed Cambone meant "great" in the strict sense of "large," which the decision certainly was.  It committed a vast military force -- and a vast treasury -- to a vaguely-defined cause.  It created a region-wide political and humanitarian crisis, the latter particularly savage in the way it has endangered and driven into exile so many Assyrian Christians.  However stupid and expensive it may have been, this was indeed a big decision.

But no.  Cambone apparently believes that the Iraq invasion was a brilliant "victory" -- his word -- and is the spark that ignited the Arab Spring.  (We wonder whether anybody asked him about the Islamist undercurrent that has come to shape many of the Arab-sprung nations.)

Whatever.  It's a free country, the guy can say whatever he wants.  We can't imagine that anybody is listening; Danger Room has a list of juicy quotes from Bush and his team describing Iraq as their signal mistake, and warning successors not to repeat it. Still and all, it is sweet to know that even when the captains defect from their cause, a few bold foot-soldiers remain faithful, waving the banner and declaring their eternal opposition to the rule of facts.

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