In 2003, Lawrence Kaplan, a leading neoconservative, helped deliver arguments that justified the invasion of Iraq. Afterwards, he traveled repeatedly to the war zone over a course of two years. It changed his view: "You can’t help but be much more cautious with the ideas you put on the table," he tells SPIEGEL ONLINE in an interview.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So for the record: Was the Iraq war a mistake?
Kaplan: Yes. Knowing what we know today, definitely. I know this is political poison in some quarters, but respect to reality demands this answer. However, this is a completely different question from whether or not having invaded Iraq we should stay or leave. On this I am equally clear: We turned this country upside down and we have an obligation to put it back together again. No matter how long it takes.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Iraq war was percieved as the one chance the neocons had in our time to prove that their theories were right. Is neoconservatism already a historical footnote?
Kaplan: The near term argument here is that if John McCain wins the presidential election, neoconservatism will have been vindicated. Because by voting him into office, people will have tacitly given their endorsement to that sort of foreign policy. His advisers are the very people we are arguing about. ..