Cut and walk?

The Baker-Hamilton report is going to say “Get out of Iraq”: slowly, and with lots of diplomacy, but definitely out.

I’d been worried that the Iraq Study Group would come out with some version of a Last Big Push recommendation, which Bush would embrace, leaving the Democrats on the Hill to either capitulate and own the war or resist and allow the Republicans to blame them for the all-but-inevitable defeat.

Apparently not. Instead the ISG is prepared to call for a phased withdrawal accompanied by a diplomatic offensive. (Sounds a lot like the line Wesley Clark has been pushing.)

I’m not firmly against leaving some troops there for a while; as horrible as our occupation has turned out to be for Iraq, I can imagine that our withdrawal could make things worse rather than better. (Churchill once said of Lenin that the only event in Russian history more disastrous than his birth was his death.)

But even an Administration more skillful at diplomacy than this one (and could there possibly be an Administration less skillful?) would have a hard time getting anything useful out of Syria and Iran, two of the key players. We’re not holding many cards; worse than that, we’re known not to be holding many cards. And George W. Bush has spent five years convincing the rest of the world that the United States needs taking down a peg. So diplomacy might not accomplish much, in which case leaving slowly rather than quickly just incurs more casualties.

But the key point, as I see it, is that a group including Baker, Meese, Eagleburger, and Simpson is going to publicly admit (having more or less cleared it with the White House) that the course we’ve been staying is a road to nowhere. Sounds like progress to me.

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:

6 thoughts on “Cut and walk?”

  1. It's simple, really: Bomb the cities of unrest with bags full of cash and while the greed overcomes the fanaticism and they all scramble for the gelt, load our troops up and get the hell out of there.

  2. Countries really shouldn't be in the invasion business unless they are willing to go the whole nice yards being as brutal and repressive as needed to put down the inevitable rebellion against their occupation. The US did that successfully during the Philippines Insurrection but modern democracies simply can't behave brutally enough to break the will of a foreign people and even if they did could one really claim to have "saved" anyone from oppression? Therefore they should just avoid invasions to begin with.

  3. "…I can imagine that our withdrawal could make things worse rather than better."
    This is very likely, of course—_in the short run_.
    In the long run, a very plausible case can be made that it will make no net difference (or might make things better).

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