August 09, 2005

The Case For Defeatism

Oh, Hitch, you little imp. Christopher Hitchens asks whether the left could possibly be so perverse as to actively hope that the United States "loses" in Iraq, merely so that they can stick it to the Cheney administration. Most lefties, of course, want no such thing. It doesn't take much to envision the varieties of badness that would come to pass if the United States committed the ultimate no-no and let full-blown civil war break out in Iraq. Obviously no one thinks that would be swell.

On the other hand, "victory" in Iraq—the very thing Hitch claims liberals fear—increasingly looks like it will entail the ascension of a Shiite fundamentalist government with a monopoly on a) death squads, b) anything with a uterus, and c) Iranian goodwill. One hopes for the best, but those are the trends. Now Hitchens wants us all to clap our hands, think happy thoughts, and hope for some third option to appear. For instance, he thinks it would be great if someone publicized the "recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands." As it happens, I'm putting editing just such a piece right now, for America's leading communist glossy, but sadly I'm just not convinced it's going to do very much good. (He also wants liberals to send charitable donations over to help out. Right, because if you thought African aid programs were a boondoggle, you'll love Iraq.)

That said, let's be cynically frank. A left-liberal-whateveryoucallit hoping that the United States actually does lose—which, I assume means beating a hasty retreat—isn't necessarily being myopic, or blinded by Bush-hatred. There are plenty of rational reasons to hope the U.S. is "defeated" in Iraq. Insofar as you think that invading countries and embarking on massive nation-building projects is a thoroughly cocked-up idea—and one that tends to leave a lot of people dead—well, then a defeat in Iraq would be fantastic: it decreases the chance of this fiasco ever happening again. A disaster in Iraq might also hasten the downfall of the Republican Party, which, I think a case can be made, would be a good thing for a lot of people. Now if given the choice, I'd much rather that Iraq turned its 67th corner or whatever next January and became a stable state than have the GOP get whomped at the polls and see the idea of Iraq-style regime change (maybe) discredited once and for all. But I can see why someone might prefer the reverse, even if I think they're wrong.
-- Brad Plumer 3:04 AM || ||