Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, December 23, 2004

This Reuters story is pretty unequivocal.

Sometimes it can be a bit weird to see these sorts of headlines, since most readers of this blog have known for a long time (on their own, not because of me) that the Iraq war is an awful mess. But the impact of a group like CSIS putting out a report like this can hardly be overstated.

One of my pet peeves about news articles on think tank reports is that they often don't give you the name of the report, so it takes some doing to find the thing (especially since most think tanks write a lot of reports about very similar subjects). The title of this report is actually "Playing the Course : A Strategy for Reshaping US Policy in Iraq and the Middle East."

The biggest bombshell in the Executive Summary is not quoted by Reuters, so I will quote it here: "The U.S. faces too much Iraqi anger and resentment to try to hold on in the face of clear failure, and achieving any lasting success in terms of Iraqi political acceptance means the US must seek to largely withdraw over the next two years."

Now, CSIS is the most centrist of foreign policy think tanks - their position on the Iraq war was basically the position that John Kerry adopted. They weren't exactly in love with the idea, but once it became clear the war was going to happen, they offered a lot of advice on how the war ought to be prosecuted, advice which the president largely disregarded. Also like Kerry, once the war began they took the position that a quick withdrawal was out of the question.

Now they are admitting that if things continue to get worse in Iraq, we will have to get the troops out soon regardless, or we will have another Vietnam on our hands. The report includes a lot of frankly pitiful suggestions on how to make an early withdrawal look a little less like the massive failure of a crude and irresponsible war that killed tens of thousands of people for no good reason.

The report has headings like "Defining Success as Narrowly as Possible" and others that demonstrate pretty effectively that the report's authors don't think much of our chances of achieving anything positive in Iraq.

For some reason, the author makes a lot of hokey poker analogies, actually going so far as to pen a section called "Know When to Hold 'Em." Unfortunately he seems to be incapable, as is virtually every person in the mainstream discussion, of dealing with the logical reality of that analogy - the best play a poker player ever makes is folding a bad hand.

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