“Such another victory and we are lost” dep’t

The problem isn’t that we’re “losing” the war in Iraq. The problem is that, in “winning,” we made the world a less secure place. But pulling out now would still have many of the same consequences as a military defeat.

I mostly agree with Matt Yglesias, as against Jacob Weisberg: the problem isn’t that we’re losing in Iraq; the problem is that the world, the Middle East, Iraq, and the United States are all less safe as a result of our invasion, even though we won.

But if we remove substantially all of our forces from Iraq without having pacified the country, that will certainly look like defeat. Or at least that’s what it’s usually called when an army retreats without having achieved its objective. We can rely on al-Qaeda to make the most of the plausible claim that jihadists pushed the Soviets out of Afghanistan and the Americans out of Iraq (having previously forced us out of Saudi Arabia).

No, that’s not military defeat, Vietnam-style. But it would be a big blow to our (already tattered) prestige, and a big boost to that of our enemies. That’s why people like Wesley Clark, who are smart and knowledgeable about this stuff and (unlike me) were smart enough and knowledgable enough to get the right answer to the question “Should we invade Iraq?” back when the decision had to be made, don’t want us to pull out now if there’s still any chance of salvaging a non-horrible outcome.

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