A test for pro-war bloggers

Mickey Kaus has been all over the Iraqi looting story, pointing to (among other things) a Washington Times story on the memo from Lt. Gen. Garner’s office requesting troops to guard critical cultural sites, a Washington Post piece on which says widespread looting crystallized much of the anger toward the United States.”
Kaus is in his favorite “I’m just askin'” mode, lobbing these nuggets in the general direction of “pro-war controversialists” (his phrase) like Mark Steyn and pondering whether, you know, perhaps this might actually have been a minor error? (It’s good stuff, read it all).
But he doesn’t go far enough. Following the chain of evidence and logic Kaus himself lays out, it’s clear to me that the looting of the Iraqi National Museum in particular, and the chaos following Baghdad’s fall in general, must unavoidably be chalked up in the “screwup” category for U.S. forces.
Let’s be clear on this. Does this mean all the terrible things about U.S. motives being impure are true? No. Does it mean those who predicted quagmire and awfulness were right? No. Does our failure in this area outweigh the huge success that we’ve had in defeating the true enemy (Saddam’s forces) while at the same time not just sparing, but often protecting the lives of Iraqi civilians? Absolutely, no.
The war is still a tremendous success. But: it is crucial that those of us who supported the war be willing to stand up and actually acknowledge when some things genuinely do go wrong.
This is hard, because for the past month, we’ve been barraged by chicken-little complaints from the anti-war side of the isle. We’ve gotten very used to ignoring criticism — or at least, swatting it away reflexively — because up to this point, criticism of the conduct of the war has been pretty damned weak.
Now, however, we have a clear example of something that U.S. forces did, indeed, screw up. It happens; the failure was not deliberate (to the best of my knowledge), and it’s importance should not be overstated. But it should be acknowledged for what it was: an error.
Thus far, the pro-war side of the Blogosphere isn’t faring too well on this test. Glenn devoted a piece on GlennReynolds.com to the looting story and the idea that critics of U.S. power are now expecting the U.S. to be omnipotent — a valid counter-criticism. But he never actually acknowledges clearly that allowing the looting to occur was in fact a mistake. Jeff Jarvis does only slightly better, at least acknowledging that there’s something to apologize for, but only in the context of minimizing the issue. (“Hey, I’m sorry that antiquities got lifted. I’m sorry Iraqi museums didn’t have better locks. “). And Andrew Sullivan has been completely silent on the issue (although that may be in part to his vacation). To be fair, both Jeff and Glenn’s pieces came out before some of the revelations Kaus points to: but neither (to my knowledge) has come back to the story to update their thoughts given the new information.
It’s crucial for those of us who supported the war to be able to also criticize it, and the peace that is following. Because the anti-war forces (some of ’em) were right about one thing: in many ways, the hardest part lies ahead. And we need to retain all the credibility we can get: both to convince the rest of the world that yes, America is imperfect, as will be the reconstruction of Iraq, but overall we’re pretty darned decent — as well as to keep our own eagle-eyes on those doing the reconstruction, so we can legitimately call ‘foul’ on them if they are going wrong.
That’s the job: now I’d ask my friends in the Blogosphere to rise to the occasion…
Correction: Well, this is what I get for trying to dash off a substantive post in the morning before heading to the paying job. Andrew Sullivan did blog on the looting issue, contrary to my assertion above (as buddy Spoons points out in the comments). I missed it because it was only one paragraph, but it was a very good paragraph:
“I remain an optimist about the Iraqi future – and America’s critical role in it. Yes, there have been some obvious screw-ups – the failure to protect Baghdad’s museums strikes me as damn-near indefensible. But the direction is clear. And if the U.N. is successfully kept at the margins, we can work this out.”
If he ever bothers to read my humble page again now that I’ve been caught out as not just being a jerk to him, but being a careless jerk: Andrew, you have both my kudos for your response, and my apologies. And those two things, plus about two bucks and fifty cents, will get you a nice latte at Starbucks…