The Corner

Our Editorial On Iraq

Just a few points to add to those Rich has already made:

1) National Review came out for regime change in Iraq in the very first issue that appeared after the invasion of Kuwait–in 1991. Maybe “[t]he war to depose Saddam was always an unlikely war for conservatives,” for the reasons Sullivan gives, but that is never the way it has looked to my supposedly Tory colleagues.

2) Sullivan makes a distinction between a “blind realism” that doesn’t see the strategic advantage of transforming the political culture of the Middle East and a better realism that does. He puts NR in the camp of the blind–immediately after quoting a paragraph from our editorial that takes his visionary view! (NR: “And forging a non-fascist, non-radical, non-hostile government in Iraq could affect the entire region’s geopolitics for the better.”)

3) Neoconservatives are constantly claiming to have added to conservative foreign-policy thought a recognition that ideology matters; Sullivan seems to buy this assertion. I don’t. Conservatives didn’t need to wait for Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz to see that the Soviet Union’s communism mattered. Certainly NR was never blindly realist in the 1950s and 1960s.

4) This is just a general complaint about the blogosphere, not a specific criticism of Sullivan’s piece: Of all of blogdom’s self-congratulatory tropes, the term “fisking” is easily the most annoying. As far as I can tell, all it means is “criticizing with an unjustified air of having crushed the other side.” More than half the time I read Person A’s “fisking” of Person B, I leave thinking that Person B has the better side of the dispute–and many times I leave thinking Person A lacks basic reading-comprehension skills. Please, everyone, drop it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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