If I’d known beforehand that Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction, I would not have supported the war. I don’t believe President Bush misled the country about these facts, because many other sources held the same view of Hussein’s capabilities. (I don’t believe Colin Powell was intentionally misleading anyone at the United Nations either, but it turned out not to be his finest hour.)

I’ve been struggling with what my mistake means ever since. When he was at the center of events in the Clinton years, Bob Rubin spoke often about what he called “probabilistic reasoning.” You do the best you can to assign rough probabilities to the complex scenarios you face, he said, and to the likely outcomes of decisions — and then make your call as best you can. His corollary was that you couldn’t judge the quality of a decision after the fact, when more became known. You could only judge the quality of a decision based on the information available at the time…

For my part, I’m chastened. I’m less confident in my judgments on foreign affairs. Politicians rarely admit they’re mistaken (as our surge-opposing president and vice president proved again this week). Neither do . But politicians can be held to account. Pundits prattle on regardless. Not to be holier (or wronger) than thou, but that turns people off. It ought to.