Matt Yglesias has a very admirable little post trying to get at why he was wrong about invading Iraq, "Four Reasons for a Mistake":
1. Erroneous views of foreign policy in general: At the time, I adhered to the school of thought (popular at the time) which held that one major problem in the world was that the US government was unduly constrained in the use of force abroad by domestic politics. More forceful intervention in Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo had all been called for. This led to a general predisposition in favor of military adventurism.
Pattern recognition is hard. Computer scientists in the 1950s didn't know this. We do. But this is ridiculous! All the more kudos for fessing up now.
2. Elite signaling: When Hillary Clinton, Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, Joe Biden, John Edwards, etc. told me they thought invading Iraq was a good idea I took them very seriously....
Bob Dylan: "Don't follow leaders."
Addendum: Especially leaders who are listening to Democratic campaign consultants.
3. Misreading the politics: It seemed to me that the political consequences to George W Bush of invading Iraq to disrupt a nuclear weapons program and then discovering that there was no such program would be disastrous....
The very first thing Bush did in early September 2002 was lie about a non-existent IAEA report. That lie caused him zero problems. Pattern recognition is hard. But this is ridiculous!
4. Kenneth Pollack: The formal case for war that I found compelling was Kenneth Pollack's "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq." ....
"The Threatening Storm" turned out to be Ed Wood sound effects. Ooops!
Kudos all around for Matt's willingness to admit mistakes and more than that, to try to understand why.
What worries me, though, is the limited nature of the lessons he seems to have learned. I'd like to be proven wrong.
Or at the very least, I'd like to hear Matt reflect on how he'd do things differently going forward.
Bottom line: Good for Matt, but don't stop now!
p.s. Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns & Money adds:
What I especially like is his willingness to conclude that his mistake in judgment on a specific issue was a product not merely of idiosyncratic circumstances, but of a structurally flawed way of thinking about the world, and specifically an over-willingness to trust elite opinion (this is especially impressive for for someone from Yglesias' background, i.e. upper class Harvard grad etc.).