The Plank

After Virtue


Matthew Yglesias, commenting on the Gates confirmation hearings, writes:

Gates seems to be part of the "mainstream" elite consensus which holds that Iraq is almost certainly doomed, but that we should sort of keep on prosecuting the war for years and years just because it would be embarrassing to give up and, hell, who knows maybe a pony will come along. That sort of thing works, I think, if and only if you regard the war as a total abstraction, rather than actual events happening to actual people. [emphasis added]

And yet here's Gates from those very same confirmation hearings, as reported by Dana Milbank:

Gates, unlike some predecessors at the Pentagon, knew the war's total tally: 2,889 dead as of Monday morning. "Twelve graduates of Texas A&M have been killed in Iraq," said the nominee, who is A&M's president. "I would run in the morning with some of those kids. . . . I'd hand them their degrees, I'd attend their commissioning, and then I would get word of their death. So this all comes down to being very personal for all of us." [emphasis added]

Now, does the fact that the war is personal for Gates mean he's right in his belief that we should stay in Iraq? Not necessarily. But I don't think it's fair to assert that those who are opposed to an immediate withdrawal are automatically an out-of-touch elite wholly ignorant of the war's awful reality.

--Jason Zengerle

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