The idea that a decision cannot be judged at the moment but only retrospectively opens a slippery slope of justification. The future Secretary of State was indulging an understanding of politics favored by advocates of a Hegelian view of history--most of whom have, in the last century, been communists. In his lectures on the philosophy of history delivered in the early nineteenth century, the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel argued that history was a slaughter bench on which the happiness of individuals was sacrificed. (He also claimed that the course of history comprised the teleological unfolding of God's plan on earth at whose endpoint all human beings would be free, an idea that also appears to have some supporters in Washington.) The achievement of freedom, or in the case of the communists, the classless society, justified the sacrifices on the path to its perfection--as if such perfection could not, in the end, have come about without those sacrifices. In the aftermath of the Soviet victory in World War II, communist apologists, including sophisticated French intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, argued that the victory of 1945 either justified or sent into oblivion the horrors and crimes of the Stalin years. Stalin's decision to sign the Nonaggression Pact with Hitler and his refusal to recognize the imminence of the Nazi invasion were blunders of unprecedented proportions that contributed to the capture of three million Soviet prisoners of war in 1941, two million of whom died. If the Soviet regime had been a democracy, Joseph Stalin would have been quickly ousted from office, just as Neville Chamberlain was defeated following the failure of his appeasement policy. Yet in 1945, in the glow of victory, Stalin was presented as a great genius whose wise decisions in the end worked out. Fidel Castro captured this communist faith in the redeeming power of history in one pithy phrase: "History will absolve me."
But if you read her testimony, you get a different feeling: the same feeling that commanders express in battle, and that I heard many, many times on growing up: "Yeah, that wasn't so good. But a military operation is a success if 70% of its decisions turn out right. Which means that 30% of the time we will make stupid, boneheaded decisions that will cost lives, and that any schoolboy will be able to criticize in junior high school. But the schoolboy isn't here: we are. And for him to be able to learn anything at all, we have to win. So we go ahead."
What makes the article even sillier is its failure to understand why we went to war and what we hope to accomplish. He still thinks it was mainly about Weapons of Mass Destruction, because he can't imagine that it was about anything else, and he didn't bother to read Bush's speeches about what we were doing. No, they say, it was all about WMD. Like Barbara Boxer, who can't be bothered to read resolutions she votes on, and who covered herself with embarassment insisting that "it was all about WMD" at the confirmation hearings for Dr. Rice.
Personally, I'd be on the "Rice for President" campaign committee. I think she's done a sterling job, has a great sense of humor, and plays the piano a lot better than Bush does.
How about you?