I give up:
    The surge WAS a dumb idea after all.

1. We don’t have what Gen. Petraeus’s manual says we would need to do the job.
2. Blair won’t play.
3. We’re taking combat units from Afghanistan to move them to Iraq.

Recently in this space I expressed cautious skepticism about the consensus forming among the grown-ups in this country around the proposition that the Bush/McCain surge is a terminally dumb idea. I remain convinced that even a small chance &#8212 say, one in twenty &#8212 of converting a likely catastrophe into a mere disaster would justify further expenditure of blood and treasure.

But Fred Kaplan’s piece in yesterday’s Slate pushes me back toward the consensus position. At least, if I were in Congress I’d like to hear Gen. Petraeus explain slowly and carefully why he expects to succeed in Iraq without the numbers or the organizational culture his own counterinsurgency manual identifies as essential.

I’d also like to know why Mr. Bush has been unable to convince his buddy Tony Blair to play along. It’s hard to believe that Blair is just clinging to office, since he’s promised to step aside within months in any case. Perhaps he simply doesn’t have the votes in his own Cabinet to push more chips into the center of the table. But if he thought that there was merit in the proposed escasurge, or whatever we’re calling it this week, wouldn’t he say so?

But here’s the clincher, in my view: the Young Churchill is taking a combat battalion out of Afghanistan, in the face of a coming Taliban offensive, to move it to Iraq. Looks to me as if Kevin Drum is right: GWB seems to be determined to make history by becoming the first American President to lose two wars at once.

Update The account in today’s Washington Post by Michael Abramowitz, Robin Wright and Thomas Ricks of the political process that produced the plan to be announced tonight is the opposite of reassuring.

Second update Matt Yglesias points to a Weekly Standard essay, published just last month, in which Gen. Jack Keane and Fred Kagan, the two key outside proponents of “surging,” say that any escalation involving fewer than 30,000 additional troops or lasting less than 18 months is “likely to fail.”

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