I haven’t been as dismayed as the average voter by the continued flow of bad news from Iraq; we figured to be in for a rough ride. But the latest memo from the CIA station chief — apparently endorsed by Viceroy Bremer himself — suggests that things may really be spinning out of control. [Longer, better story from Knight-Ridder here.]

I’m grateful to be let in on the secret, of course, but it’s actually rather scary that the people on the scene think they can’t get the lotus-eaters in the White House to pay attention to bad news except by handing out intelligence assessments as press releases.

Tacitus,somewhat more hawkish than I was going in but always far more serious and knowledgeable than the average warblogger, perceives the lack of a coherent strategy (either military or political)on our side, and is no longer confident that we can sustain the “liberator” role: “We have to admit that the scenario wherein we’re battling a handful of extremists amidst a generally pro-American population is probably a fiction.”

He doubts that internationalizing the conflict would make a difference, and draws the conclusion that what’s needed is “more,” even if that requires reimposing the draft. Well, that’s not going to happen; General Rove won’t allow it, because it would require an admission that things are going badly. (Surely Tacitus knows that; I’m not sure why he criticizes Wesley Clark, who at least is proposing a coherent strategy that isn’t obviously politically infeasible in domestic terms.)

I’m not quite ready to say that we would have been better off not invading, but despite the easy victory my confidence that invading was the right thing to do is certainly weaker now than it was the day the war started. If the WMD threat wasn’t imminent, then the argument for invading was that we could, at reasonable cost to ourselves and the Iraqis, effect a regime change with net favorable results. That proposition now looks dicier than ever.

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