What now?

Kerry may have it right: the secret to succeeding in Iraq may be changing the definition of the word “success.”

Update Dan Drezner thinks that the decision to invade Iraq will still turn out to have been the correct one, if we are now willing to do what is necessary to succeed. Matt Yglesias agrees, sort of, except that he doubts that, from where we now stand, success is still possible.

My tentative view is that they both might be right: invading might turn out to have been better than not invading if some sort of success is achieved, but our maximal war aim — a stable, democratic, pro-American Iraq — might be, and in fact probably is, a shot not on the board. So the Kerry strategy of defining success down — to call it “success” if we manage to leave Iraq in the grip neither of frank tyranny or active civil war — may now produce the least bad outcome available.

That’s easy for me to say, since I never believed in the feasibility of the maximal agenda but supported the war anyway. Replacing a horrible government that’s very hostile to us with a pretty bad government that’s only somewhat hostile to us isn’t an exciting battle cry to rally the troops or the voters, but you couldn’t really call it a defeat.

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

One thought on “What now?”

  1. Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward

    I haven't read any of it and don't have any plans to (too many other books on my list already); I haven't see Woodward on TV and I haven't read very much about it so far. So it's very nice when someone you've come to trust, like Mark Kleiman, gives you…

Comments are closed.