UPDATE: The words attributed to Ezra Klein in this piece appear to have been written by a guest writer to his old blog, not Ezra.
Back in 2007, long before Ezra Klein founded the explanatory journalism site Vox, the wonkiest self-proclaimed wonk in Washington was a blogger for the liberal magazine the American Prospect.
At the same time Klein was blogging for the Prospect, George W. Bush occupied the White House.
As fate would have it, both discussed what the consequences might be if the U.S. withdrew from Iraq. So who was more prescient: the Washington wunderkind or the supposed Texas ignoramus?
As you might remember, 2007 was the year Bush went “all in” in Iraq by ordering a surge in troop levels and implementing a new strategy led by General David Petraeus. Speaking in July of that year, Bush said the following about withdrawing from Iraq too soon:
“I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now,” he said. “To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaida. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”
Hmm. That sounds kind of like what happened after American troops withdrew from Iraq at the end of 2011, which many said at the time was premature.
So what was Ezra’s take in 2007?
Well, Klein didn’t necessarily dispute the idea that a premature American troop withdrawal could lead to what Bush prophesied, or even specifically an Islamic Caliphate. He just couldn’t understand why that was such a bad scenario.
“So I finished reading Fiasco by Tom Ricks last night, and I really should take back some of the mean things I said about him over the summer. It really is an excellent book, and you should all read it,” Klein wrote in a short blog post. “But I was struck by the ending of Ricks’ book — he explores what the likely scenarios are in Iraq, and his ‘nightmare’ scenario (the worst of the worst, presumably) is the establishment of a Muslim Caliphate in Iraq.”
“Funny,” Klein concluded. “I really, really don’t understand why I’m supposed to find this outcome terrifying.”
Now that a caliphate has been declared in the Sunni heartland of Iraq by the terrorist group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Klein may want to talk to the non-Muslim women who have been taken as sex slaves or the religious minorities forced to flee for their life as to why an Islamic Caliphate is not something to be longed for.
Perhaps all you need to know about Washington is Ezra Klein is considered an intellectual giant. We’ll score this one for Bush.