‘Innocent of understanding’

There is a tickle of nostalgia that comes from understanding a consequential bit of history that remains hard to parse even to those who lived through it. For me, the selling of the Iraq War is one of those mysterious events. I imagine the same is true for most news reporters; you don’t forget the first time you see everyone get something really big really wrong. A “war” and “North Korea” start showing up together, there’s a new urgency to figuring out how we collectively blew it in 2003.

Kori Schake’s piece in The Atlantic — “The North Korea Debate Sounds Eerily Familiar” — is a great version of a pretty dull style of story, the Smart Person Gets Real With You column. (The problem is, basically, that being able to write a strong editorial does not make a writer correct.) It has a great line in it describing the White House team toying with a preemptive war:

“They seem innocent of understanding the disastrous and isolating consequences for America’s role in the world to choose preventive war.”

Innocent is a perfect word. It evokes blind religious conviction. It infantilizes. It is cutting without lightening the attack.

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