Concurring in part, dissenting in part

Moqtada disbanding his militia is good news.
But for which side?

Everyone from Kevin Drum to Pejman Yousefzadeh seems to believe that the announcement that Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his militiamen to go home is good news.

Now good news has been pretty scarce of late, and I don’t enjoy raining on my friends’ parade, so I’ll agree that this is good news.

Just one thing, though: I sorta doubt it’s good news for our side.

The subtext seems to be that we’re going to let the murder charge slide and allow Sadr to set up a political party. Since our own polling shows him to have picked up enormous popular support by running a guerrilla war against us, and has him currently the second-most-popular figure in (non-Kurdish) Iraq, running only slightly behind Ali al-Sistani, this looks like a pretty terrific outcome from al-Sadr’s viewpoint. And he remains our bitter enemy.

Now maybe we’re about to double-cross al-Sadr and toss him in the clink as soon as his troops disband. And maybe we could get away with it. But right now this looks to me like a second Fallujah.

So if this is the best you’ve got to offer as good news, do me a favor: don’t show me the bad news.

Update Glenn Reynolds is cheerful, too, even while linking to this Reuters story noting the administration’s climb-down from the position that al-Sadr was a thug to be imprisoned to the position that he’s welcome to participate in the politics of the new Iraq.

The way I learned my Clausewitz, winning on the battlefield but not achieving the aim for which you were fighting doesn’t count as winning.

We sought a confrontation with al-Sadr. We were fighting to take him off the table as a political figure. Now the fighting is over, and he’s apparently a more popular and potent political figure than ever. Maybe my eyes are getting tired, but from where I sit it looks as if he just won and we just lost.

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: