There’s a story about a defense lawyer whose client was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. As the guards came up to take him away, the defendant said to the lawyer, “Well, what do we do now?” To which the lawyer replied, “Well, son, I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna go have lunch.” The lawyer, after all, had a Plan B in case of defeat. The client, not so much.
Much as I hate to defend Condi Rice, I can’t share Greg Sargent’s outrage, or Mike O’Hare’s, at her refusing to tell an open hearing what Plan B is when the Prez gets his head handed to him by the Iraqi civil warriors on both sides. “Well, we figure we can get all of our guys out. Of course, we’ll have to leave most of our Iraqi friends behind to get slaughtered.” Not exactly a morale-building statement.
The more prepared we seem to be for failure, the more likely we are to fail, since our allies and enemies alike, in Iraq and nearby, will be less willing to defend, and more prone to attack, a position we are seen to be only weakly committed to. One of our problems in Iraq is that we can’t, in fact, credibly commit to sticking it out. We always have the option of going to lunch. (I’m not saying that I wish we were really and truly stuck there, only that being really and truly stuck would shift our friends’ and foes’ calculations in a direction favorable to success.)
Now it’s possible that the Administration actually hasn’t done any contingency planning on the political/diplomatic side, though I’d be surprised. (The military certainly has operational plans.) But, as I understand it, Rice didn’t say they hadn’t done it; she said, “It’s bad policy to speculate on what you’ll do if a plan fails when you’re trying to make a plan work.” Quite right, too. If she still has no answer when asked in closed session, I’ll share the outrage.