2007 May 03 Thursday
Flawed View Of Human Nature Behind Iraq Debacle

Steve Sailer suggests why Condi Rice, George W, Bush, and the neocons failed to anticipate the post-invasion violence in Iraq.

As usual, I see an aversion to politically incorrect generalizing about ethnicities as a source of ignorance among decision-makers. One of the basic generalizations that anybody who looks around at the real world with open eyes quickly comes up with is the reverse correlation between organized violence and disorganized violence. Groups that are competent at organized violence in wartime, such as the Germans and Japanese, tend to be orderly during peacetime. And groups that tend to be anarchic during peacetime also tend to be incompetent at organized violence during wartime, with the Iraqis being perhaps the most notorious example of this.

There are many exceptions to this, but it's still one of the most obvious patterns in 20th Century history. However, if you are morally opposed to noticing patterns, as so many people are today, you'll be a sucker for idiocy.

The pretty lies about human nature (e.g. everyone loves freedom) which our intellectual elites have enshrined as virtues come at big costs. The Iraq Debacle is one of those costs. Our immigration policy is another of those costs. The lies have gotten too costly. We should abandon the lies and the damaging policies they are used to justify.

My own curiosity about the world and my desire to understand it overwhelms any impulse I have to go along with the mythologies promoted by our intellectuals. I refuse to believe the nonsense that passes as conventional wisdom among the talking heads. Plus, I do not have sufficient intellectual resources to make sense of the world if I also have to reconcile what I see with what I'm supposed to believe. Some smart people find the time, motivation, and mental energy to rationalize some sort of consistency between their beliefs and the conflicting evidence of their senses. But I prefer to ditch the false beliefs in order to free up mental resources and apply those resources to better puzzle out what really is true.

Back in the year 2000 if you would have asked me where the neocons fit on the political spectrum I would not have placed the neoconservatives on the Left. After all, they placed themselves on the Right and they drew parallels between themselves and right-wingers who are big on a strong military. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion I figured that surely the neocon rhetoric about democracy in Iraq was just marketing gibber to sell the war. I figured the neocons were sufficiently realistic to have some secret plan about how to keep some Baathists in the Iraqi military and wouldn't base real policy on the idea that Jeffersonian Democracy has a place in Iraq. But I greatly overestimated both the intellectual abilities of the neocons and their grasp on reality.

Today my take on the neocons has changed. I see them as leftists because they share left-wing assumptions about human nature even as they make conservative arguments when those arguments help them advance their goals. Yet as Lawrence Auster points out, the neocons continue to flatter themselves that they are fighting against unrealistic views of human nature and defending society against the Left.

Neoconservatives, as I have observed a thousand times, refuse to respond to arguments from their right. Their self-concept is that they are in a heroic war against the left. Since the left sees them as extreme right-wingers and excludes them, as PBS excluded Gaffney's movie, the neocons see themselves as being as far-right as any reasonable person can possibly be, and thus they cannot conceive that their own position is actually a liberal position open to legitimate criticism from conservatives. Therefore they automatically and rudely dismiss any criticism from their right as crackpottery, as Gaffney dismissed mine.

And that, as I said, is the landscape of mainstream American politics when it comes to Islam: on one side, the anti-American, pro-jihadist left, and on the other side, the deluded, neocon "right," which imagines that it is defending America from its jihadist enemies, but in reality is legitimizing and empowering jihad by telling people that the vast majority of Muslims are moderates whom we should welcome into our country.

I think Muslim immigration is a great litmus test for whether someone really is willing to put defense of our society ahead of promotion of a foolish Panglossian view of human nature. On immigration in general and on Muslim immigration in particular the neocons show their true stripes. They are liberal universalists who really believe that all the peoples of the world can get converted into liberal democrats.

Neocons defend the war in Iraq as a necessary battlefield in their Global War On Terror (GWOT). Never mind that a war against a tactic makes no sense. Never mind that the Muslims are not militarily formidable. The neocons present only 3 choices as tactics against the Muslims: 1) Kill the Muslims, 2) Capitulate to the Muslims; and 3) Reform the Muslims. They pose as humane by choosing option 3 over option 2 and they pose as tough guys by choosing option 3 over option 2. But in doing so they willfully ignore another option altogether: 4) Demographic Containment. In a nutshell, keep the bulk of Muslims out of non-Muslim countries.

Larry Auster labels containment as separationism. By whatever name, the idea is simple enough: The Muslims can only come to Western nations if we let them. But the neocons want us to believe that only a small extremist element in Islam is a problem for the rest of us. To believe otherwise would require an admission that liberalism does not hold universal strong appeal to all the peoples of the world. The unconservative neocons do not want us to entertain that idea and therefore won't even mention policy proposals based on that idea. Their failure to do so tells us they really want us to believe a ridiculous faith in human nature.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 May 03 09:38 PM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict

fred said at May 3, 2007 11:14 PM:

I think another point to consider is the extent to which these Panglossian Neocon views are simply the rationale by which the more gullible in our society are led to support, or at least, to grudgingly accept, policy decisions that are in fact driven by cold, economic calculation. It's hard to inspire the American people to go to war to ensure that oil continues to be traded in dollars rather than Euros, and that American and British oil companies get the plum contracts.

Perhaps Condie really buys the rhetoric about the democratic longings of the Middle East. George W. is - on questions of foreign policy - ignorant and delusional enough to be talked into almost anything. That's why he was selected to be president. Uh sorry, elected.

I doubt that Cheney or Rumsfeld have, or have ever had, even a moment's passing interest in the democratic longings of the Arab World. These guys think in terms of oil and money, but they also know the public temperament.

It's much easier to justify an invasion by claiming that you are deposing a dangerous dictator and bringing democracy to the oppresed Iraqi masses. When challanged on that point, you accuse your opponents of anti-Arab racism. It's a crude tactic, but it muted fully-legitimate questions about whether or not the Iraqis would even WANT to practice anything that the West would consider to be a legitimate form of representative government. In other words, the accusation of racism kept this line of questioning quiet for a time, and that's what they were after.

To what extent do the neocons buy their own rhetoric? At the highest levels, I think they just shake their heads and laugh. Of course, since Iraq has gone so desparately wrong, they may be laughing a bit less. But as Cheney himself has said with a chuckle, when it comes to war, he has "other priorities."

Fred said at May 3, 2007 11:29 PM:


Having gone back and re-read your original post, I see that you discussed the point I was trying to make above. I should have read more carefully the first time.

I don't think the Neocons anticipated that Iraq would go THIS wrong. On the other hand, I don't think they gave the post-war political situation in Iraq a lot of thought because they were focused on Iraq's oil reserves, and everything else was secondary.

I think they did expect to find WMD or at at least WMD programs, and when they failed to, they started scrambling for some other politically-expedient rationalization for the invasion. But they never paid suffient attention to the political repercussions in Iraq, because they didn't particularly care. Foolish on their part, but also very cynical.

I hope this clarifies my comment above.

John S Bolton said at May 3, 2007 11:57 PM:

If there were not extremely serious flaws in the premisses on what to expect of people given freedom-for-aggression,
implicating not only neocons,
but the entire spectrum of officially-approved beliefs,
Iraq could be pacified in a few months, even today.
It would not be necessary to kill large numbers, or indiscriminately,
but to use discrimination, quarantines, exclusionism,
rejection of openness to aggression as somehow valuable,
and rejection of the feeling that
man, with freedom-for-aggression, can be expected to be virtuous,
reject and overthrow pathological Islamic democracy,
and partition so that Sunnis needn't fear Shia supremacy;
plus other reactionary policies.
The leftist premise of inclusionism,
as a value higher in worth than
freedom-from-aggression, has to be disposed of;
it is impractical and immoral.
Partition is completely practical;
the Iraqi national unity as such has no constituency.

John S Bolton said at May 4, 2007 2:41 AM:

The other point that stands out here is that a deductive position, such as the brotherhood of all humanity, is, on neocon-type premisses, not even allowed to be open to inductive generalization.
One would have to controvert it on its own deductive terms, perhaps.
That is, assuming that any of its believers are open to rational arguments.
If that brotherhood doctrine means that there can be no enemies, or no lasting ones, Islamic or otherwise, that doctrine is a contradiction-in-terms:
it has lasting enemies so long as anyone would deny it,
and its own anti-generalization directives would have to deny
the no-enemies teaching,
therefore, we're being asked to believe in, and base public policy, including wars,
on obvious nonsense.

Kenelm Digby said at May 4, 2007 7:26 AM:

All I can say is that the liberals, neo-cons and those stupid enough to follow them, must have lived very sheltered lives during their formative years, and lacked any understranding of life's struggle, and most crucially of all the concepts of *clannishness and exclusion of outsiders*, which forms the dominant theme of economic/ethnic coexistence in every multiracial nation.

Kurt9 said at May 4, 2007 10:06 AM:


Yes, Larison and Auster are essentially correct that the Neo-cons have the same delusion about human nature as the liberal-left, that eveyone really pines for liberal democracy. Issues like tribalism and clan identity, which really are paramount in much of the world, are not recognized by the liberal orthodoxy as being legitimate. The neo-cons have drunk from the same kool-aid as the liberal-left that they claim to despise.

It is worth noting that many of the neo-cons were, in fact, liberal-left during their youth in the 70's (a neo-con being a liberal mugged by reality). I guess they were not mugged enough by reality to give up their silly notions of human nature.


I think you give the neo-cons too much credit for thinking and planning. There is no evidence that they did any more due diligence in planning for Iraq than you and I would do in buying a new car. They actually believed all of the horse-pucky they came up with about how the Iraqis would worship us as liberators and what not. There was no post-war planning as far as I remember.

Yes, Cheney is an oil man. However, I do remember that the CEO of one of the major oil companies (Exxon-mobil, I think) said prior to the war that he thought an invasion of Iraq was stupid because getting all of that infrastructure up and running requires billions of dollars in investment over a period of years. This, of course, can only happen in a place with a stable government and populace. Not a democracy, but something that is stable, long-term, and this was not about to happen as a result of an invasion. The major oil companies knew from the start that the Iraq war was a dog and were not about to deal with it. Cheney's old company, Halliburton, does not apply because it is not really a player in the oil industry. Halliburton is as much of a government contractor as an oil industry supply company and we all know that government contractors, unlike real free-market companies, love war because it keeps all those government contracts flowing.

Kenelm Digby said at May 5, 2007 5:29 AM:

It is interesting to note that in Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler claimed to be free of racial prejudice and anti-semitism during his childhood in the provincial Austrian town of Linz.
It was only after moving to Vienna, following his destitution as an art student, vagrant and construction laborer,that Hitler's heart hardened.

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