Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My transformation and the Iraq war

This March marks the ten year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Andrew Sullivan is rounding up reflections here and here. They mostly consist of people admitting they were wrong. Like Andrew, I supported the Iraq war. I was a freshman in college at the time. I had just started paying attention to politics after 9/11. I was fairly conservative. So I watched a lot of FoxNews and pretty much acted like a cheerleader in the lead up to the war.

What happened over the next few years in Iraq wasn't the sole reason I had a change in perspective. I think being on my own and being exposed to a bunch of different ideas for the first time in my life was the biggest reason. I started thinking about things I had taken for granted most of my life and began to change my views. The tragedy that resulted from the war certainly changed how I viewed war. But the more fundamental transformation occurred upon learning about how the Bush administration manipulated things, abused power, and acted immorally.

One of the big reasons I supported Obama over Hillary was that I thought Hillary was too hawkish and Obama had been opposed to the Iraq war. It was the most important issue for me. The events of 9/11 and Iraq had shaped so much of my politics up to that point. I don't think my core values changed a ton during my transformation. I think it was just more the perspective through which I view my values. Who knows? Maybe I wouldn't have been so skeptical or open to critical thinking if either the war had gone better or if they wouldn't have started it to begin with. Perhaps I would be writing this blog as a conservative rather than a liberal (though probably as a libertarian, not some bigoted tea party type; as I said, my core values haven't changed a ton, I never had much use for bigotry).

I'm not sure what grand lessons can be gleaned from this. I appreciate that Andrew is talking about it as a way to acknowledge past mistakes and learn from them. At worst this is just a way to hold myself intellectually accountable. After all, we aren't perfect. I like to think that now, I've given most issues that I hold a strong opinion about enough thought to not be too wrong about them. Like with Iraq, I hope I'm open enough to recognize when the data proves me wrong. That's not always easy to do. So I guess we should all take this occasion as a reminder to keep an open mind and not be so quick to start wars.

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