George Weigel Cannot Leave the Bubble

George Weigel Cannot Leave the Bubble February 19, 2009

I found Weigel’s analysis of the last election quite stupefying:

“Given an unpopular war that had been misreported from the beginning, plus President Bush’s unwillingness to use the presidential bully pulpit to help the American people comprehend the stakes in Iraq, plus conservative aggravation over a spendthrift Republican Congress and administration, plus that administration’s failure to enforce discipline on its putative congressional allies, plus public exhaustion with a familiar cast of characters after seven years in office, plus an economic meltdown—well, given all that, it seems unlikely that any Republican candidate could have beaten any Democrat in 2008.


Still, I would argue that the basic dynamics of the 2008 campaign, evident in the passions that drove Obama supporters to seize control of the Democratic party and then of the presidency, were not set in motion by the failures and missed opportunities of the previous seven years but by Bush Derangement Syndrome.”

(Hat tip to John Henry for this; the original is behind a subscription firewall)

So, according to Weigel, the massive Republican  rout had nothing to do with the previous regime’s incompetence, corruption, and crony capitalism. It had nothing to do with an economic meltdown that can be traced to the very free market ideology lauded by that administration. It had nothing to do with torture and human rights violations. It had nothing to do with turning the United States into a global pariah and emboldening millions of anti-Americans, some of whom follow the route of terrorism. No, it was because George Bush did not do a good enough job in persuading people of the virtues of the Iraq war. Truly incredible.

Is it not high time for Weigel and his fellow Catholic pro-war supporters to show just an inkling of humility and admit they were wrong? After all, this is the man who embarrassed himself by endowing George Bush with the “charism of political discernment”, thus making it fine to ignore what the Church had to say on the Iraq war.

Let’s review this a little. Many Catholics who supported the Iraq war did so on a number of assumptions. First, they assumed that Saddam Hussein presented an imminent threat based on his notorious WMDs, and was planning on deploying them soon. Second, they assumed that because of the hatred felt by Iraqis against the brutal regime, the war would play out smoothly, fast and relatively costless. For those who take the just war teachings seriously, the first assumption dealt with the “last resort” criterion while the second pertained the “disproportionate evils”. Now, there are serious problems with this interpretation of the just war teachings, but if we assume the validity of these two points, there was at least the semblance of a case.

But, as we all know, these two assumptions did not hold. There were no WMDs, and certainly no imminent threat. Far from being costless, the war unleashed horrors that led to the deaths of possibly a million Iraqis and the displacement of a quarter of the population, while sowing the seeds for further instability and terrorism. In other words, there is really no way anybody who takes the just war teachings seriously can possibly still think that the “last resort” and “disproportionate evils” criteria are still valid for this particular war.

Now, there were plenty of people who argued all along that there were no WMDs and an invasion would lead to disaster (the Vatican among them), but I can certainly understand how people at least initially bought the WMD story. After all, we were not accustomed to such audacious lies coming from the executive branch. But with the benefit of hindsight, it would be nice if Mr. Weigel could simply admit he was wrong, and re-assess the situation. It would be nice if people like him who still wanted to support Republicans would do not in spite of, not because of, policies that go directly against Catholic teaching. After all, Weigel is perfectly capable of wagging the finger at other Catholic public figures who take such contradictory stances. It would be nice to see a little consistency. But that would mean first leaving the warm embrace of the bubble.

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