A grim thought about Iraq

A friend writes:

You probably remember the former moderate Republican senator, Ralph Aiken, who stated in 1968 that he had found a simply way to win in Vietnam: “declare victory and get out.” This now appears to be the administration’s strategy, in a way.

Bush said again today that “we won’t leave until the job is done.” This certainly resonates with voters, who will give Bush credit for firmness. Then, over the next few months, the US will substantially and severely draw down its forces, claiming that whatever puppet group it puts in Baghdad will “get the job done,” and insist that we will help them. The administration will also insist that things are getting better in Iraq, and will get the better of the argument, because we will have drawn down our troops so much, casualties will go down.

The timing here is critical: get the troops out in time for the election, but do it slowly enough so that the Baathists don’t take power until after November 2004. Sort of like the strategy on Medicare enunciated in NRO a couple of days ago.

Meanwhile, with fewer American casualties, the press will begin to lose interest.

This will be good for US troops, and good for the political fortunes of the administration. It will be a disaster for Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

If this is the strategy, Tacitus , for one, will be loudly against it. He’s already saying what I, of course, would be far too polite and civil to say: the strategy is now being driven by the needs of the President’s re-election campaign more than by any coherent thought about the national interest. It will be fascinating to watch the reactions of the other warbloggers.

If Election 2004 is between a George W. Bush who has agreed to an excessively rapid drawdown of forces in Iraq and a Wesley Clark who says we may need selective force increases until the situation is stablized [*], will Warblogistan support the guy who got us into this mess, or the guy willing to do what it takes to get us out of it with credit rather than disgrace? I’m not taking any bets.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com