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You get taken seriously AFTER you take the lessons to heart

March 31, 2012

You’d like to think that, if we make catastrophically expensive and damaging mistakes, we’d at least learn something from them, right? I mean, surely in the future we’ll make an effort to at least avoid the stupidest things we’ve done in the past.

From Foreign Policy online magazine comes the Top 10 lessons of the Iraq War. Here’s lesson number 3:

Lesson #3: The United States gets in big trouble when the “marketplace of ideas” breaks down and when the public and our leadership do not have an open debate about what to do.

Given the stakes involved, it is remarkable how little serious debate there actually was about the decision to invade. This was a bipartisan failure, as both conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats all tended to jump onboard the bandwagon to war. And mainstream media organizations became cheerleaders rather than critics. Even within the halls of government, individuals who questioned the wisdom of the invasion or raised doubts about the specific plans were soon marginalized. As a result, not only did the United States make a bone-headed decision, but the Bush administration went into Iraq unprepared for the subsequent occupation.

I remember people who questioned the war being dunned for lack of patriotism. As if it was patriotic to let your country run off a cliff without at least saying “Um…”

Companies punish CEO’s who attempt risky strategies that fail. The same should apply to any decision to go to war: “You had damned well better be right”. ¬†You can be wrong about lots of other things but not war. Leaders who get war-decisions wrong but refuse to admit it ought to be consigned to shame and ignominy. They ought to be scorned, not given airtime, and no one should buy their books. They, and the party that produced them, ought to pay a heavy price in subsequent elections until they show signs of having learned something other than fancy ways to pretend it didn’t happen. And Democratic leaders who gutlessly went along? OK, it wasn’t their idea, I’ll give them that. Otherwise, shame.

We need to develop some immunity to the patriotism card, if we want to save our country.

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