Mark Lilla has a hot‐and‐cold review of Jacob Heilbrunn’s book They Knew They Were Right in the New Republic. Lilla, a former editor of The Public Interest, hilariously describes his view that Commentary was “the great simplifier – everything always came down to holding the line and proving your manliness. The articles made sense only if you imagined the authors screaming at the top of their lungs.” But he has some scathing remarks for the unrepentant neocons of today:
Poor Iraq! And poor America! The dénouement we all know, but Heilbrunn’s book, for all its superficiality, still shows how depressingly predictable it all was. By leaving the reality‐based community and creating their own Team‑B approach to every issue – and stocking that team with reliable soldiers who happened not to know what the hell they were talking about (trivia question: who was Laurie Mylroie?) – the neoconservatives had become the very last people you’d want leading you to war. They knew how everything connected but not how anything worked – the Army, the United Nations, the Sunni‐Shiite quarrel, the balance of power, human culture in the face of occupation and humiliation. And what they used to know about the unintended consequences of political action they seem to have willfully forgotten. Reactionaries are like that – because in the end, contrary to Heilbrunn’s title, they really don’t care whether they are right. What they care most about is reconfirming their picture of the world.
Whole thing’s worth a read.