Sunday, April 09, 2006

Changing Mind on Iraq War

Francis Fukuyama argues in LA Times why it is okay for him to change his mind from an Iraq war supporter to one who is against NeoCon approach. (,0,5138726.story?coll=la-sunday-commentary)

John Maynard Keynes once said – “When I am wrong, I change my mind; what do you do, Sir?” Fukuyama is arguing effectively along this line – he thinks empirical observations in last 3 years compel him to change his mind. Fair enough.

However, he has to answer why was he not enough circumspect before the war about more evidence? He was not enough patient and indeed did ride the bandwagon of ‘let us wage the war’. There were many experts before war who indicated that America needs to be careful about the WMD evidence presented. In fact one of the strongest arguments against rushing to the war was to wait till the course of international inspection runs its course. Though Fukuyama gives evidence of his cautions before the war, and those evidences may very well portray his prudent approach then in some ways; but we do not remember he as one of those intellectual stalwarts who deployed their entire intellectual arsenal to vivisect the gaps of empirical basis in starting the Iraq war. On the contrary, notwithstanding cautious remarks Fukuyama quotes in this article, we find Fukuyama joining the party of war mongers without any hesitation and submitting his intellectual prowess without any qualifications at the disposal of NeoCons.

When John Kerry vacillates about how to fund Iraq war and eventually has to loose his presidential election as a ‘flip-flopper’; NeoCons and Bushees are not going to avoid their evaluation by the same yard stick. If you change your mind without having had earlier traces of qualified support to a policy measure, you will be called ‘flip-flopper’. At least John Kerry was honest enough to admit various thoughts in his mind. Those who judge others by sword themselves get judged by the same sword. Further, Fukuyama don’t you worry now about the extreme partisan nature of American politics and their bad effects. Being at the receiving end of political power for last five years, have hardened Democrats quite enough to withstand rough and tumble of this new war fare called ‘American Politics’. America learns to live with this extreme bickering and America will over come this extreme partisan environment. However, what America does not need for that is any condescending advise from her intellectuals; but she needs intellectuals and leaders who are honest and straight.

What about the second question which Fukuyama raises – ‘The debate over the war shouldn't have been whether it was morally right to topple Hussein (which it clearly was), whether it was prudent to do so given the possible costs and potential consequences of intervention and whether it was legitimate for the U.S. to invade in the unilateral way that it did’? What were his own answers to these questions before the war? Fukuyama failed to ‘estimate’ the cost part correctly; commensurate to his intellect. When Administration’s own Economist mentioned cost figures of over $200 Billion and a General mentioned figure of several hundred thousand soldiers for long duration; all theses straight talkers were eased out. Fukuyama neither did come in support of these people nor came with any better ‘empirical observations’ at that time.

Pres. Bush, war supporters, NeoCons and Fukuyama; all are bankrupt as far as Iraq war rationale is concerned as well as that policy goes. Pres. Bush is shameless in not making any amendments to his fault policy and approach to the whole issue. Fukuyama rightly points that. Jim Hoagland incisively analyzes the continued ‘intuition’ based approach of Pres. Bush and his refusal even at this stage to have a sound policy framework to this issue.

Yes, Fukuyama should change his mind; he has that right and it is ‘right’ too. But with rights come the responsibility. Fukuyama has a responsibility and a chance to redeem himself from his intellectual failure here: he can continue the analysis and critique as like Hoagland is doing and lend his considerable intellectual apparatus to the correct national discourse about Iraq war going forward. It is much more beneficial for America to read Fukuyama’s articles about merits and pitfalls, say for example, of John Kerry’s call to bring back troops than to read his contrived arguments and justifications about why he changed his mind. If Fukuyama wants to redeem himself, he needs to take cognizance of what Paul Krugman is pointing in NYT – Pres. Bush may start Iran war to hide failures of his Iraq war policy and to derive political advantage to Republicans.

Fukuyama better think seriously this time and start systematically pin point follies of any such policy towards Iran. He has a chance now. Worrying about partisan atmosphere in American Politics is much less useful compared to enormous advantages in unraveling dangers of an administration run by an inept, ideologically driven, war monger President.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA 95111
April 9, 2006.

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