June 29, 2005

Cordesman on Iraq

Anthony Cordesman's recommendations for Iraq certainly deserve a serious look. Love or hate his conclusions, the man knows what he's talking about. As it happens, Cordesman's of the "stay the course, be patient, and take the 50-50 chance at winning this thing" camp, only without the air-headed optimism that you see from the Cheney administration. (Another person against early withdrawal or timetables? Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Abul Ghait, along with a bevy of other Arab analysts who are worried about regional collapse.) I think I'm of this camp too, though with the caveat that let's cut the bullshit here: if we have genuine reason to think that staying the course won't produce a stable, democratic, peaceful Iraq—or hell, just a stable Iraq—then the sooner we realize that the better.

In that case, it will be time to move on, I honestly think, to Daniel Byman's plan for a targeted draw-down, along with a severe narrowing of goals. Instead of a peaceful democracy we'll shoot for managed anarchy; instead of a well-trained and professional national Iraqi security force we'll have Afghanistan-style rule by militia—so long as the oil keeps flowing, the major terrorist training camps are disrupted, and there's no large-scale civil war. We'll be cruel and heartless bastards, and we'll have failed Iraq utterly, but at least we won't be getting thousands of troops killed for a project that's hopeless. The question, though, is at what point do you decide that staying the course is in fact hopeless and Byman's semi-withdrawal plan is the least bad option for Iraq? Well, here's the thing: I can't tell. You can't tell. I'm not even sure Congress can tell. The person best-positioned to make that call is, most likely, the president himself, after a series of serious and wholly non-deluded conversations with his top military leaders and advisors. In other words, we're fucked.

Unless, of course, Bush's air-headed optimism somehow turns out to be right. Quite the gamble.

...similar wishful thinking from Herbert Meyer, a senior intelligence official in the Reagan administration.
-- Brad Plumer 3:02 AM || ||