Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow's latest entry for This Modern World offers an especially pithy and trenchant perspective on Iraq.
Hindsight is not always 20/20. It is possible, and tragically in some cases all too likely, to learn a bad lesson (I will not say wrong) from a momentous occasion, especially a traumatic one. I would argue that one of the essential lessons to learn from 9/11 is the value of human connections and international cooperation, not that a nation should act unilaterally against all advice and invade another country whose threat is already contained. Legitimate arguments existed in favor of invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. However, those arguments were, by and large, not made (probably because it would raise our country's own spotty history with Iraq). I'm currently reading The Assassin's Gate, which shows, as others have before, that the neoconservatives had long wanted to invade Iraq. One school of thought is that 9/11 was merely an excuse for them to take action. Certainly many if not all of the neocons believed that Saddam Hussein was a genuine threat. Some of them even likely believed he was an imminent threat. However, the sincerity of the belief does not excuse the intellectual poverty of the philosophy, nor the manipulation of the Iraq intelligence, nor the skewing of the public debate, nor the lack of a postwar plan, nor the staggering and deadly incompetence of the actions taken. Finally, the sincerity of the belief does not excuse the inability to learn, adjust, and improve, as the neocons stubbornly stick with the same myopic hubris that got us into this mess to begin with.
Al Franken's offered a version of the following analogy: If someone drives a car into a ditch, throws away the tires, and then sets the car on fire, it doesn't make much sense to turn to the passenger and say, "Oh yeah? What's your bright idea for getting us out of this mess?" First thing you do is get rid of the driver. He's obviously not making good decisions, and time has shown that's just not going to change.
If only hindsight were 20/20.