What the Experts Really Said About Iraq
My latest for TCS Daily, “What the Experts Really Said About Iraq: As it Turns Out, Not Much,” is up. It looks at the recent blogospheric debate about the foreign policy Establishment’s role in the Iraq War debate.
After an extensive review of the archives at Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and International Security from 2002 and 2003, I found that it wasn’t so much that there was an Establishment view — there wasn’t — but this:
What’s striking, though, is how “business as usual” the article selection remained throughout the entire period. Entire issues went by without an article on Iraq or even the Middle East and most issues continued to have the standard mix of articles on Africa, the global economy, environmental issues, human rights, and so forth. Indeed, it might have escaped the attention of a casual observer glancing at the covers (which list the prominent articles in each issue) that the country was at war.
Despite the overwhelming view of security scholars I encountered in academic conferences and at think tank presentations, the foreign policy Establishment treated the war with dispassion, seemingly afraid to take a strong stand. More importantly, it treated the march to war as a mere curiosity no more worthy of attention than presidential elections in Brazil, whether World Trade Organization judges had too much power, or economic reform in Japan.
That, more than being wrong in their predictions about the future, is the real failure of the foreign policy community. None of us has a crystal ball and our analyses of prospective events are frequently going to fall short. Public policy experts merely owe the public their best reasoning and to engage in a vigorous debate when no consensus exists.