The Right Coast

July 24, 2004
Why the Gloom?
By Mike Rappaport

I sometimes wonder why the Coalition's efforts in Iraq have been judged so negatively. To my mind, the war and reconstruction have certainly not been perfect, but given realistic but optimistic expectations, they have not gone so badly either. Victor David Hanson has some explanations:

First, the Left was embarrassed in April of last year. Already stung after predicting a British-type imperial defeat in Kabul, its subsequent pre-Iraq-war scenarios of millions of refugees and thousands of American dead only confirmed its unreliability and deductive pessimism. So, it is only in this context that the loss of nearly 700 American dead in the subsequent 15-month reconstruction was seen as redeeming their initial gloom and doom. In a fateful decision, Kerry belatedly embraced Deanism and thus put himself on the path to seeing all bad war news as salutary for his own hopes and good news as fatal to his cause. The media knew that as well, and many in it reacted accordingly.

A dying generation of aging dissidents is desperately trying to find some final redemption to their life-long suspicion of the United States military. For these Vietnam-era retirees, the televised mayhem from Iraq — not the other 25.9 million Iraqis living in relative calm — will always be the second coming of rice paddies and Rolling Thunder. So the rocky occupation gave the Left ammunition that hardly needed a Tarawa or even a Tet, just something more to work with than the costs of the three-week war last spring.
Certainly Hanson is right about these explanations. For people who are skeptical that the war critics are being unfair and are judging by unrealistic standards, consider the following. During the initial phase of the war, when things turned out to be going better than anyone could have expected, critics of the war were complaining that the military had screwed up. This proves, beyond doubt, that the critics were not willing to judge the war successful no matter what happened.