Friday, August 25, 2006

If you're right, you're right, and other tales of Iraq

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall August 25, 2006 06:47 PM:retired Lt. General Bernard Trainor, as quoted by Matthew Yglesias:
"By just about every measure, our strategy is not succeeding. Common sense would dictate that we cut our losses and get out as soon as feasible, leaving the Iraqis to settle matters in their own way. But that would be taking a leap into the great and highly dangerous unknown, perhaps creating problems more vexing than those we currently face. Opponents of precipitous withdrawal raise “out of the frying pan, into the fire” scenarios — and they may be right. If so, staying the course and working for improvement is the only logical choice unless at some point the chaotic situation absolutely forecloses that option."

Matthew sums it up:
"Trainor clearly has a grip on reality that many of his fellow contributors lack. . . . And yet his argument here is that opponents of withdrawal are correct to oppose withdrawal if and only if opponents of withdrawal are right. But, obviously, we shouldn't leave if withdrawal opponents are right. The question is are they . . . right?"

The answer to this Delphic conundrum is really not all that difficult. Are we willing and able to not merely stay, but to act to improve the situation for the long-term?

Bush has so little concept of what needs to be done, that the whole debate over what to do, short of precipitous withdrawal, is frozen. Iraq has many dire problems. Are we willing to do anything about them?

I don't think Bush is either willing or capable of helping the Iraqis. He has no idea what to do, beyond a stupid persistence. Even if some of his advisers had some bright ideas, the Decider-in-Chief lacks both ambition and discernment.

I don't agree with those on the Left, who glibly say the situation is, in principle, hopeless, or minimize the inevitable losses down the road as Iran takes over the Middle East.

I think, with sufficient effort and expense, Iraq could be transformed. Half a million American troops on the ground and $60 to 80 billion in additional reconstruction funding, diligently spent, and I could see the U.S. really accomplishing something.

Withdrawal or not would become a moot point; a strong Iraq would ask the U.S. to leave, forthwith.

As it is, we are in the position of the idiot cook, who has put the pot on the stove, and seeing it boil, puts a lid on, hoping to stop it from boiling over. Our lid just makes it worse.

If we are not willing to do anything more, than we should take the lid off, and flee the kitchen, and accept what follows. If Iran ends up dominating the region, so be it. Oil is fungible, and we should use a lot less, anyway.

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