"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a kind of default condition to which societies reverted once the heavy lifting of coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform. While they now assert that they knew all along that the democratic transformation of Iraq would be long and hard, they were clearly taken by surprise. According to George Packer's recent book on Iraq, "The Assassins' Gate," the Pentagon planned a drawdown of American forces to some 25,000 troops by the end of the summer following the invasion.
Sometimes press briefings are confrontational; that's not new. People's level of attention to them may be somewhat new. But there's a built-in tension betwou could imagineeen the White House and the press corps because we're more skeptical about what they're saying. People tend to view what the press does through their ideological prisms and see us as actors with some kind of agenda. Frankly, the White House seeks to stoke that view; you hear that on talk radio, and some people on Fox News have been critical of our questioning and make the argument that we have a point of view, which is really not the case. The White House engages the public directly through us; people have questions, and the public has a right to know certain things. Whether or not people have faith in me—or us, collectively—is something I try to be very sensitive to, but I can't focus on our image all the time.
What struck me though, in reading it, was how many of his claims about what was wrong with the Bush Administration's policies were available in 2001, and, indeed, were stated over and over again by critics of the Administration in the run up to the Iraq war. People in power simply didn't want to listen, or if they did listen, they discounted the advice because they were completely convinced of the correctness and righteousness of their own world view. They ridiculed their critics as naive, cowards, sore losers, weak-willed conciliators, unconcerned with America's national security, and sometimes even as traitors. And much of the country, which likes strong leadership, simply went along, trusting that its leaders had the knowledge, the wisdom, and the expertise to back up their bluster.