Just asking

Is it really certain that more troops, new leadership, and an all-out attack on the militias (primarily the Mahdi Army) can’t get us an awful result in Iraq rather than a catastrophic result?

Update Never mind.

John Kenneth Galbraith once said that politics is the art of choosing the unpalatable over the catastrophic.

I know opposition to the Bush/McCain surge is an article of faith among all decent people, but according to a BBC report I just heard al-Maliki’s government has agreed to an all-out attack on the militias, including Moqtada’s Mahdi Army. Is it really obvious that the civil war couldn’t be cooled off if the Iraqi government were purged of its worst Shi’a elements, and the Shi’a militias that have been doing the ethnic cleansing got hammered? Especially since, as Juan Cole reports, Bush has finally decided to put in the A-team?

Maybe none of that good stuff will happen. Maybe, in fact, more American troops just means more targets. Maybe it would have worked two years ago, or even one year ago, but too late now.

But it really, really, really isn’t a good idea to leave Iraq in civil war and give the jihadists a chance to brag that, having driven the Russians out of Afghanistan, they’ve now driven the Americans out of Iraq. Not if there’s any reasonable chance of pulling out a bad result rather than a worse one.

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