Liberal critics reject the honest-mistake explanation. “The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong,” replies Paul Krugman, “America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war.” And the liberal critics are correct that the war was not merely an honest mistake. But they have framed their indictment of the Bush administration’s intelligence manipulation in such a way as to help it, and its defenders, evade the truth.Thus far, Chait agrees that Krugman's claim is true, but also criticizes Krugman. He does this in such a way as to help Krugman's defenders demonstrate the truth and the invalidity of his criticism. In substance, he argues that Krugman is playing into Bush defenders hands by denying tht honest mistakes were made. To the extent there is any substance to his critique it is here
It is true that western intelligence agencies badly overestimated Iraq’s weapons capability before the invasion. The Clinton administration, France, Hans Blix, among other sources, all suspected Saddam Hussein of continuing to harbor weapons of mass destruction. They all suffered from a widespread intelligence failure.I find his choice of pronouns odd. I believed Saddam Hussein continued to harbor VX nerve gas. I would have written that "We sufered from an intelligence failure." I also opposed the invasion (and reconsidered (but eventually stuck with) my opposition when I learned that there were no WMD in Iraq). Why does Chait, who supported the invasion, use "they" when I use "we" ? Isnìt his case that people honestly believed that there were WMD in Iraq strengthened by the fact he was one of those people ? But back to his critique of Krugman. He argues that Krugman leaves himself vulnerable to those who argue that honest mistakes were made by setting up a dichotomy between the claims that no one made honest mistakes and the claim that everyone, including Cheney, made only honest mistakes. What would happen if someone were to respond to Krugman's op-ed by writing "chemical weapons (which many people did think Saddam had) " Chait argued that, in the op-ed Krugman left himself vulnerable to an argument based on noting a fact which he mentioned in that op-ed. Jon Chait is a brilliant polemicist and I'm sure he can defend himself against the accusation that he critiqued Krugman by quoting him while suppressing necessary context. I am not a brilliant polemicist and I can't imagine any possible defence of Chait's post against my claim that he quoted Krugman out of context. On the other hand, I do like his feature "Today in ‘Paul Krugman Is Definitely Not Arguing With David Brooks" and, though of it while looking for Krugman noting the fact which Chait claims he overlooked. I just went to the times and found that David Brooks is definitely not arguming with Paul Krugman when I read the title of a Brooks op-ed headline "Learning From Mistakes" (I didn't read the op-ed).