Sunday, March 23, 2008

Iraq - five years on

While it seems reflections are obligatory, mine are going to be limited for the time being. One of the reasons for this I gave in my very first post on this subject where I explained why I don't really care to join the blogosphere 'debate':
"But there was a more melancholy reason: I didn't want to be involved in a debate that I've found profoundly depressing at times; lots of jeering and sneering and a really quite unpleasant tendency to impute moral and/or intellectual failure to one's opponents. Often, both camps have carried out what could only be described as a sort of intellectual scorched-earth policy towards the middle ground."
Things haven't changed much - if anything they've got worse. Did you know, for example, that once upon a time the bionically smug Chris Bertram used to describe himself as, "a non-supporter of the war rather than an opponent"? Pretty much the same place, as far as I can tell, as Norm ended up.

It should be obvious that people who like to pretend that those of us who supported the invasion of Iraq imagine it's been a huge success are doing just that - pretending. There isn't any of us who hasn't adjusted their original position in some way. No-one argues now that the way the case was made for war was defensible. And hardly anyone argues that the conduct of the war was defensible.

But that's all I'm willing to concede. I appreciate people will find this inexplicable. I astonished and disgusted many people who know me by my support for this war. I astonished myself. I'm no stranger to self-disgust either but I'd have to say that this never has anything to do with the positions I take on this or that issue. For this is part of a wider problem we have on the left - the idea that morality is a function of the stands we take on big geo-political issues. As if what we think matters a damn, as if this was important compared to how we quit ourselves as men and women in relation to our families, friends, colleagues and neighbours.

But I digress. There are a dozen different reasons why I'm not doing a Johann Hari. I might explain some of them in due course but here's just one: Johann describes himself as having been a 'cheerleader' for the invasion of Iraq and now he feels terribly guilty about it. Fair enough in as far as this goes because I think cheerleading is a fairly accurate description of what he did. But don't invite us all to do likewise because some of us didn't do this in the first place. Some of us were more circumspect. Some of us backed the war even though we knew the outcome wasn't certain. Some of us had misgivings about the whole enterprise from the outset and so felt less need to acquire them after the fact. Some of us were there for the first one and made all the clever anti-war arguments at that time. Then came over a decade of 'containment' over which time we came to the conclusion we'd been wrong. So when it came around a second time, we could do no other but lend our reluctant support. This forms part of the reason why some of us aren't repenting today.

Cross-posted on DSTPFW

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