Last night Paul recounted The Week’s award proceedings in this post. Paul stated that Arianna Huffington attributed the statement that Iraq is “the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history” to William F. Buckley. In a postpostscript to her account of the event, Arianna suggests without exactly so stating that she quoted Army Lt. Gen. William Odom (ret.), who has called the invasion of Iraq “the greatest strategic disaster in our history.” Buckley, on the other hand, has only called for “the acknowledgement of defeat.” Can we go to the tape?
PAUL responds: I don’t have a tape, but I believe that Huffington is misstating, not correcting, the record. Huffington was asked by someone in the audience why she was focusing exlusively on events in 2003 (our decision to go to war), and not talking about what we should do now. The essence of Huffington’s answer was that our intervention in Iraq has proven to be such a disaster that it’s appropriate to discuss in detail how we got to this point.
That’s a legitimate response, if you accept the premise that the situation is a disaster. But where Huffington went wrong (perhaps inadvertently) was in her attempt to demonstrate her premise. First, she asserted that the war is the greatest disaster in the history of our foreign policy. Then, in a rhetorical move I’ve heard her make before, she added that this isn’t just the view of the left, it’s also held by people on the right including William F. Buckley. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me (and I wrote my post not long after the fact), she did not attribute to Buckley the view that “our mission [in Iraq] has failed” and that the most important thing in determining what we do next is “the acknowledgement of defeat.” Rather she attributed to him the much stronger view that she had just expressed, namely that our mission is a disaster of historic proportions.