Politics & Media
Aug 25, 2008, 01:48PM

The Three Dumbest Post-Invasion Neocon Predictions

Neoconservative policy makers brought the Bush administration towards the invasion of Iraq with outlandish predictions that were based far more in ideological frivolity than actual fact. Their mistakes lead to demonstrably false expectations, such as a short period of conflict in Iraq and immediately successful democratic elections. But their failures in Iraq haven't stopped Neocons from making other silly foreign policy predictions. Here are the three worst to think about.

1. “The Arab Spring Is Happening Now” by Abe Greenwald, Pajamas Media.

There are many unintentionally funny aspects of this April 13, 2008, article, such as the fact that two of the countries Greenwald cites approvingly, Turkey and Pakistan, aren’t Arab at all. But as with all good comedy, it’s the timing that makes this article such a winner. To see the joke, you have to remember that Neocons have been predicting an “Arab Spring” for years, in which democracy, once we’d introduced it to Iraq, would spread like a weed all over the Middle East.

Greenwald continues to make stunningly foolish pronouncements every week. Punishment is reserved for those, like weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who dare to be right when all the Neocon pundits are wrong. For being right about the fact that Iraq had no WMDs, Ritter was subjected by Pajamas Media to a classic right-wing character assassination, “Scott Ritter: Anti-War Problem Child.” That hit piece appeared on May 3, three weeks after Greenwald predicted the coming of the Arab Spring and three days before Hezbollah took over West Beirut.

2. “Hail Mauritania!” by James Kirchick, Weekly Standard.

Kirchick may not be the most famous Neocon, but in one obscure column he encapsulated their key trait: arrogant predictions, based on total ignorance, which prove to be disastrously wrong. Iraq, of course, is the classic example. On May 7, 2007, Kirchick wrote a cheery, optimistic column called (believe it or not) “Hail Mauritania,” in which he gushed that democracy had “bloomed” in this “remote corner of the Arab world” because they’d held “democratic elections.” Then history supplied the punch line: Three months later, on Aug. 6, the Mauritanian army overthrew the winner of that glorious election, and democracy had suddenly un-bloomed. To date, Kirchick has not commented on that unexpected and irksome twist.

Fetishizing elections as good in themselves is a common Neocon fallacy. They’re a long way from understanding what Iraq expert Nir Rosen meant when he warned after the 2006 elections in Iraq (another false dawn that had the Neocons crowing until their cheers were drowned out by IEDs going off) that “democracy is more than just a formal process, it is a culture.” Pundits like Kirchick actually believe that by stepping into a polling booth, residents of an impoverished tribal country like Mauritania will be magically transformed into responsible citizens on the Western model.

If Neocons risked learning anything about the countries they discuss, they might start to feel rudimentary empathy for the people subjected to their shock therapies.

3. “The Pain Game: A Military Response to Russia’s Aggression?” Stuart Koehl, Weekly Standard.

Quite a title, eh? “The Pain Game.” That really says it all. The author is supposedly talking about how a Georgian insurgency could “pain” the Russian army in this Aug. 14, 2008, piece, but he may as well be cheering the unimaginable pain that such a course would inflict on the Georgian population. It’s that childish callousness that makes this such a classic of Neocon prognostication: “Why don’t you Georgians start a guerrilla war against the Russians? It’d be fun!” Fun, that is, for Koehl, in his living room. Koehl’s advice to the Georgians is almost unbelievable in its stupidity. Like a typical Tom Clancy fan, he reduces the problem to hardware, starting with a long, loving list of the armored vehicles the Russians are using, followed by a list of U.S. weapons that will supposedly neutralize these vehicles.

In fact, it’s a public-relations gold mine. Nothing delights the Neocons as much as photos of bombed-out Georgian villagers. This is why being wrong carries no penalty in Neocon circles: because luring Georgia or Iraq — or, for that matter, the United States — into bloody stalemates works out even better than promoting sane, successful military operations. From the Neocon perspective, Iraq is a success: another Muslim country neutralized, reduced to chaos. The costs, to the United States and to Iraq’s people, simply don’t matter. The “cakewalk” prediction was either a necessary lie, or simple stupidity — because it’s very difficult, with these people, to tell where “stupid” stops and “evil” begins.


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