Yesterday, Jonah Goldberg wrote an article for the LA Times admitting four years too late that the Iraq War was a mistake. Of course, having rooted for it for a good part of his political life, he has to call it a “worthy mistake” and say “Congress was right to vote for the war given what was known — or what was believed to have been known — in 2003,” and on top of it he opposes getting out of Iraq now.
But even that non-opposition opposition is angering Dan Riehl. First, he says, “Unfortunately for Goldberg, that is something which simply cannot be true. No mistake is worthy if it results in the loss of 3,000 American lives. So, if the war were truly a mistake, it was a most unworthy one, at that.” That actually makes sense, although I’d say 650,000 mostly civilian Iraqi deaths – or even 30,000, if you really believe that figure – are a more important indicator of wrongness than 3,000 American military deaths.
But then he goes into an analogy with the Book of Jonah, and says,
Jonah Goldberg has lost his faith, not in God, but in what freedom can bring to a free Iraq and ultimately a more free Middle East. Nothing else is going to eventually lance the festering boil which is radical Islam.
Yes, I know it’s hard. I know more people will die. And I know it’s easy for me to say because I’m not one of them. But I also know how easy it is to lose faith when you set out upon a noble cause.
The Book of Jonah is a book that promotes blind obedience. God tells Jonah to preach to Ninveh. When Jonah tries to flee, God sets him up with a disaster that can only be stemmed if everyone involved, including innocent people completely unrelated to him, repents and prays to Yahweh (but not to other gods).
The overall moral of the story is that no matter what happens, you must always obey God. It’s never explained what the people of Ninveh did wrong; in most Old Testament books, God only punishes or requires penance for a specified reason, even if it’s as heinous as testing someone’s faith.
Riehl’s rhetoric about the Iraq War is the same. It doesn’t matter that it has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, or that it strengthens the terrorists, or that it promotes religious fundamentalism in the Middle East. When Bush says that the War is good for freedom, let no dog bark.
A few days ago, Santorum compared the Iraq War to Lord of the Rings, a long fictionalized apologia for authoritarianism, fanaticism, and faith over liberty, humanism, and reason. Now Riehl is comparing the USA’s destruction of a country to another book promoting blind hatred and fanaticism.
A few years ago, neoconservatives tried arguing from liberal principles: democracy, secularism, human rights. Since then, they’ve given up, starting to argue from faith and intolerance instead. People who don’t care about reality tend to change their rhetoric like that when the facts make it clear that they’re wrong.