This article originally appeared on TomDispatch.
The Iraq war was a disaster for Iraq, a disaster for the United States, a disaster for the Middle East, a disaster for the world community, but most of all, it was a disaster for the experts.
They were wrong about its difficulty. (It was to be either “a cakewalk” or “a walk in the park”–take your pick). They were wrong about how our troops would be greeted (“as liberators” said Vice President Dick Cheney on September, 14, 2003; “with kites and boom boxes,” wrote Professor Fouad Ajami on October 7, 2002). They were wrong about weapons of mass destruction. (“Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them. Only a fool–or possibly a Frenchman–could conclude otherwise,” wrote Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen on February 6, 2003.) They were wrong about how many troops would be needed. (“It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct a war itself,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on February 27, 2003.)
They were wrong about the number of casualties (“we’re not going to have any casualties,” said President George W. Bush in March, 2003). They were wrong about how much it would cost. (“The costs of any intervention would be very small,” according to White House economic advisor Glenn Hubbard on October 4, 2002.) They were wrong about how long it would last. (“It isn’t going to be over in 24 hours, but it isn’t going to be months either,” claimed Richard Perle on July 11, 2002.) They were wrong about the “sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaeda terrorist network,” as Secretary of State Colin Powell put it in addressing the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003. They were wrong about the likelihood of Iraq descending into civil war. (“[There is] a broad Iraqi consensus favoring the idea of pluralism,” insisted William Kristol and Robert Kagan on March 22, 2004.) There was, in fact, very little they were not wrong about.
Who are we to make such charges? Not to be boastful, we are, respectfully, the CEO and president–the founders, as it were–of the Institute of Expertology, which has been surveying expert opinion for almost twenty-five years. It is true that our initial study, The Experts Speak: The Definitive Guide to Authoritative Misinformation, came under attack back in 1990 because, at the time, we failed to find a single expert who was right, although we readily conceded that, in statistical theory, it was possible that the experts were right as much as half the time. It just proved exceedingly difficult to find evidence of that other 50 percent