The big cynics whipped the little cynics

Finally, if [the liberal hawks] had regarded reality as an important basis for policy, wouldn’t they have realised that any enterprise run by people who prefer lies to truth is unlikely to succeed?

The dominant Bush people are pure political operatives focussed entirely on immediate political results. As O’Neill explained, this includes the policymakers: policymaking has been overwhelmed by electoral politics and Congressional manoeuvring. A lot of these operatives are not even ideologues, but just semi-criminal scam artists running their own games. They’ve been selected for their political skills, their willingness to be unethical, and their loyalty to the crime family.
The so-called liberal hawks weren’t suckered — they outsmarted themselves. They’re mostly centrists, much friendlier to moderate Republicans than to labor, anti-war Democrats, or left-liberal Democrats. They’re hawks pure and simple, and they’re fully committed to the anti-populist model of democracy. For them policy-making and campaigning for office are completely separate — during the elections you just tell the voters whatever seems likely to fly.
The liberal hawks were minor cynics, and they got bamboozled by the major cynics. They were cynical about the voters but serious about policy, but the Republicans were cynical about everything. When the operatives took over the Iraq War, it was reduced to photo-ops, soundbites, and graft.
The liberal hawks and the intelligent conservatives are starting to figure out what happened, but screw them. They had their time at bat, and they struck out looking.
An edited version of a comment I made at Crooked Timber.