Iraq War Anniversary and “I Told You So” Syndrome

My good friend started a great twitter feed Are We Still At War which asks whether we are still at war in Iraq. He has a family member going over there to serve. (Spoiler alert! Yes, we’re still at war.) It’s worth following, especially since we’re coming close to the anniversary of the beginning of the war.

This weekend, I helped my dad paint a room. As we were going through some old things I found an editorial I wrote in high school arguing against the war in Iraq back in March of 2003 (it was published right after the invasion started but written before.) Some of the arguments are a little outdated, and I certainly wouldn’t write it the same way today (Gah, I can’t believe I started it off the way I did – that first sentence is atrocious. Ugh, some of it is just plain stupid.) But my core argument a few paragraphs in was right: we’ll win the war, but it wouldn’t be worth it because it distracts us from the real war on terror, will be a huge cost in lives lost and on our budget, and will diminish us in the eyes of the rest of the world. And I was in high school, aping the lefty thought leaders of the day, mostly.

[Embarrassing confession time: I was that geek who read / watched Ari Fleischer’s press conferences. I think it’s because my name is Ari, too. I also kept getting compared. “Ari, you’re into politics? Like the press secretary!” No. NOT like the press secretary. I’m neither bald nor soulless. Well, I’m not bald.]

Anyway, it got me thinking. One of the more annoying cultural pieces of the liberal mindset is the smug “I was right!” attitude or “I will be right, and then you’ll regret it,” syndrome. It’s annoying and isn’t the best way to win friends and influence people. It turns many people off, even me, and I’m kind of one of those annoying people. It’s why a scientists can warn about global climate change until they’re blue in the face, but when its core advocates are Al Gore’s powerpoint presentation or folks who genuinely like to bike anyway (it’s just so healthy!) we’ve got problems.

A different, but related, problem is that so often our claims are dire and shrill, but also accurate that it’s hard not to get liberal outrage fatigue. (See: they lied about war; there will be massive flooding and starvation worldwide due to climate change; right wingers actually wanted to make killing a doctor that provides abortions”justifiable homicide”; they wanted to block funding for 9/11 workers while giving the richest 2% continued tax breaks; and on and on.)

The challenge seems to be how to warn about potentially devastating / outrageous consequences in a way that breaks through the clutter of a media  where things are always “breaking news” even if it’s not breaking or news…without getting outrage fatigue / sounding like shrill, smug, irritating liberals. And when we’re right in predicting something (and we’re often right because science works and it’s usually pretty easy to tell when the Right is full of it) how do we avoid “Look I was right!” syndome that just makes us look like arrogant I-told-you-so horse’s asses.  I’d love suggestions.

Finally, one last thought: why is it that the same people who were totally wrong about Iraq, about predicting the 2008 race, about the need for regulation of Wall Street, and about pretty much every other major event still get to go on TV and voice their opinions?

Below, a scanned version of that high school editorial, because we’re coming up on the anniversary of the war. Click to enlarge and read. Enjoy. (more…)

March 7, 2011. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.