Be Like Leon (Wieseltier)

Many, many intellectuals are now being called on to perform a backflip on Iraq. Alas, few have attempted it, and few of those have pulled it off with any grace. I mean the mea culpa for supporting the Iraq war. After all, how seriously should any writer be taken who hasn’t come to terms publicly with his own bad judgment on one of the great questions of our time? Not very.

Leon Wieseltier does a pretty good job of it in the last New Republic, in a forum on what to do in Iraq.

“Since I was a supporter of the war, I have its consequences also on my own conscience. I do not believe that American troops should die for some heartless Kissingerian notion of American credibility in the world, or the like. (Anyway, it is the war itself that is doing the most damage to American credibility. After terrorism, the most immediate problem for American foreign policy in the age of Bush is anti-Americanism.)”

There’s some other stuff to nod your head to here, like the frank admissions that more troops wouldn’t have made any difference, that the war has increased terrorism and emboldened terrorists, that it’s been a great setback to the dreams of universalists in the Middle East. (A new key on Wieseltier’s piano, universalism; though of course he particularistically dismisses the Palestinians.) But I admire Wieseltier’s moral tone on this one. He’s taking some personal responsibility, and doing so in an open and sincere manner.