August 20, 2005
What Next in Iraq
Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber discusses what can be done about the situation in Iraq:
Orin Kerr recently proposed a useful simplified framework of possible outcomes in Iraq:
- The U.S. beats back the insurgency and democracy flowers in Iraq (call this the “optimistic stay” scenario),
- The U.S. digs in its heels, spends years fighting the insurgency, loses lots of troops, and years later withdraws, leading to a bloody and disastrous civil war (the “pessimistic stay” scenario);
- The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out relatively soon, and things in Iraq are about as best as you could hope for, perhaps leading to a decent amount of democracy (optimistic leave), and
- The U.S. decides that it’s no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out soon, and plunges Iraq into a bloody and disastrous civil war with the bad guys assuming control eventually (pessimistic leave).
Speaking only for myself, I’m entirely confident that we could achieve outcome 4, believe that staying the course will continue to lead to outcome 2, and can scarcely imagine outcome 3. What about outcome 1? Is it achievable?
There’s a well-known prayer that asks for the courage to change the things that can be changed, the serenity to accept the things that cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference. I find myself short on all three.
I believe that Greg is right about the consequences of letting Iraq collapse into civil war. It’s terrible to contemplate. A civil war or a failed state could lead to tens of thousands of deaths, maybe more. It would be a moral travesty and a terrorist breeding ground. It would make a mockery of the goal, however idealistic, of transforming a bloody dictatorship into a stable, democratic, normal country. “Serenity” hardly seems like the appropriate response. When I look at the situation through the eyes of an idealistic war supporter, some of the vitriol is easier to understand; they’re appalled at war opponents who would abandon the people of Iraq to this fate.
So it seems unthinkable to declare victory and come home. Having said that, “what we must do” has to be constrained by “what we can do.” Imagine a village living in the shadow of a live volcano. Serenity is not an appropriate response to the threat of an eruption, but neither is a program of virgin sacrifice.
There's more, and links to much more, and a good discussion in the comments section.
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I suppose this is one place where I could spew some rant about why I hate idealists....
Cynics make trouble only for gain--and they can be persuaded not to make trouble by suitable bribes. Idealists not only make trouble, but they can't be persuaded not to, and if they get stuck in trouble of their own making, they get stubborn and stick around to make even more trouble--not just for themselves, but others around them too. The American left is full of how the "oil" and other "greedy" interests led to the whole Iraq mess...I almost wish they did, because they couldn't have made this much of a mess if they really driven by greed. (Yeah, you could see why I became a Lounsbury fan...)
Posted by: kao_hsien_chih at August 22, 2005 10:05 PM