How do we account for the fact that the pundits and media outlets who have been wrong about everything are still considered reliably “mainstream” – and still get to determine the parameters of allowable debate?
Let’s take the most egregious case imaginable – Bill Kristol. Here is someone who has been wrong about absolutely everything for as long as anyone can remember. On the foreign policy front, he wasn’t just on the wrong side of the barricades, he was wrong about the outcomes of our disastrous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Iraq would be a “two month” war, and in Afghanistan we would be welcomed as “liberators” (just like in Iraq!). “If we prevail in Libya,” he averred, “the victory will be America’s.” We did indeed succeed in overthrowing Gaddafi: and shortly afterwards, a US ambassador was dead and terrorists were cavorting in the swimming pool of our former embassy.
When it comes to the domestic front, his record is even more dismal: he predicted Mitt Romney would be a strong GOP candidate for President, he said Barack Obama wouldn’t beat Hillary in a single primary, and he continually presaged the downfall of Donald Trump in the Republican primaries.
It’s become something of a standing joke that the “Kristol ball” is a nearly infallible indicator of what isn’t going to happen. And yet he’s all over the media – and personally profiting from his utter wrongness. In 2009, he received the Bradley Prize for outstanding conservative thinkers, taking home $250,000.
Yes, the neocons got it wrong, but they weren’t alone: before Dan Drezner was a Washington Post columnist who is the perfect weathervane by which to chart the prevailing winds in Washington, the Fletcher School professor of international relations was a prolific blogger who stated his reasons for supporting the invasion of Iraq here. My favorite: “[A] successful invasion not only eliminates the Iraqi threat, but over the long run it reduces the Arab resentment that feeds Al-Qaeda.”
Since we live in Bizarro World, where up is down, black is white, an analyst who was completely wrong about the most important foreign policy issue of the new millennium is naturally going to be rewarded with a column in a major newspaper.
And it wasn’t just the neocons and their “centrist” enablers who were the wrong-way drivers of the “Iraq will be a cakewalk” narrative. Who can forget liberal pundit Chris Matthews proclaiming “We’re all neocons now!”? Howard Fineman told us “We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back.” And then there was New York Times reporter David Carr declaring: “Now liberal commentators must address the victory at hand and confront an ascendant conservative juggernaut that asserts United States might can set the world right.”
The list goes on, but we don’t have the space for it. Suffice to say that all these pundits, “experts,” and reporters are still out there, on the loose, ready to dispense advice – and they’re in an enviable position to do so, with full access to the “mainstream” media. And when the next war comes around the bend – as it will – they’ll be singing the same song, as written by their overseers in the Pentagon and whatever administration is in power.
On the other hand, what about those media outlets out of the “mainstream” who were right all along? I’ve said it before:
“In the years, months, and days before the war, we at Antiwar.com warned Americans – and the world – of what the outcome would be. The costs, in troops, treasure, civilian deaths – and the cost to America’s credibility in the world – would all, in the end, add up to a devastating loss.”
… And I’ll say it again: We were right. So where’s my $250,000 prize?
My favorite “toldja so” anecdote is about this infamous piece in National Review, where neocon enforcer David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter, expelled antiwar conservatives and libertarians from Respectable Society and took me to task for daring to question the “victory” narrative about the Afghanistan war then in the ascendant:
“The week after the fall of Kabul, Raimondo acknowledged that though the Afghan war seemed to have succeeded, disaster lurked around the corner: ‘The real quagmire awaits us. . . . When the history books are written, Operation Enduring Freedom will be hailed as a great success – provided it doesn’t endure much more than a few weeks longer.’”
Yes, it seemed to have succeeded – without actually succeeding, because there was no measure of what “success” meant. Did we want to turn Afghanistan into a Central Asian version of Kansas? Were we going to stay until Afghan women could “have it all,” like our own feminists? No one knew – and, what’s more, no one in the “mainstream” media cared to ask, because they were all so busy hailing our glorious “victory” that they didn’t bother to wonder what it was all for.
When the “liberal” interventionists and their neocon allies were demanding regime change in Libya, we here at Antiwar.com said it would be a disaster that would end in chaos – and we were right about that, too. While Bill Kristol was urging Republicans to ease off on criticism of Obama’s war, and the liberals were all salivating at the opportunity to prove their macho bona fides, readers of Antiwar.com knew that 1) The alleged imminent “massacre” by Gaddafi was completely phony, and 2) Regime change would dismantle the country and hand it over to Islamists.
That’s what Antiwar.com is all about – reporting the news before it happens. And we have a pretty good record. But there’s just one problem: we have to keep turning to you, our readers, to keep this site going.
We aren’t funded by any of the big foundations. We don’t have any of those Hollywood “liberals” sending us wads of cash – they’re too busy lining up for warmonger Hillary Clinton to be bothered with the likes of us. Establishment liberals don’t like our deviations from their view of orthodoxy — and of course the Establishment conservatives hate our guts because they don’t like being proved wrong.
So are we screwed?
Well, no – not necessarily. Over the years, we’ve garnered quite a bit of support from a wide range of people, from the left to the right and all places in between. Our readers have made this site possible with their tax-deductible donations since 1995 – yep, for over 20 years. But it never gets easier.
And that’s why we’re turning to you once again for the financial support we need to keep going. Our fundraising drive has been going on for nearly a week, and – quite frankly – the results have been disappointing. The economy is not that great, and getting worse – yes, I get that. But you can spare a little for what is, after all, not only a good cause but arguably the most important cause of all: the quest for a rational US foreign policy. After more than 15 years of uninterrupted warfare, isn’t it time to reevaluate where all this is taking us? The American people are with us, and now is the time to make some real change.
The War Party has more than enough resources to keep their propaganda blitz going 24/7: they don’t have to fundraise. All they have to do is make a few phone calls to the big government contractors and foreign lobbyists who then write them a check. We, on the other hand, have only you, our readers and supporters. We need your support more than ever – because the War Party never rests, and that means we can’t, either. Donate right now, before you forget. Because tomorrow you’ll wish you had.
We’ve been right all along. But that’s not gonna pay the bills and keep the Antiwar.com flag flying in cyberspace. We’ve earned your support a couple of times over. Now do your part and send in that contribution. Because Antiwar.com is needed now more than ever.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN