The Corner

Clash of Titans

Rich:

On your points:

(1) Disruption of oil markets: Might be a good thing via a bad thing. One

of the most depressing features of the US economy is our dependence on oil

sitting under the lands of Islamia. As long as this continues, we are in a

tar pit. And the lesson of 1973 & after is that it will continue as long as

our politicians can finesse the situation somehow. One of my neighbors has

an SUV too big to fit in his (1950s-era) garage. If the choices in the ME

are (a) general modern-style constitutional govt, (b) general chaos, (c)

continued despotism, I would certainly go for (a). Since I don’t really

believe there is much likelihood of (a) coming to pass, however, (b) and (c)

seem to me about equally acceptable.

(2) Depends how you do it. I’m not talking about guys hanging off

helicopter skids. I would pull out in good order, with flags flying, the

band playing, and massive retaliation against anyone who tried to take

advantage — against anyone in a 20-mile range of our departing troops, in

fact. After loud declarations that, having secured our national interest

for the time being, Iraq is now up to the Iraqis to sort out.

(3) “Making a better Middle East.” I think my main argument is the conceit

of thinking we know how to do that. “We need Arabs and Muslims to turn

decisively against radicalism.” No, we don’t need that, Rich. We need to

make sure that no nation friendly to terrorists reaches nuclear capability.

That’s what we need.

(4) I doubt it. My guess — I confess I have not spoken to any “insurgents”

– is that what fires these people up is the sight of infidels on Arab land.

(Well, we KNOW that’s what fired OBL up, because he told us so.) Continued

US presence in Iraq is a continuing reminder of that insult, always feeding

the flames.

(5) Who’s talking about “giving up”? I’m talking about saying: “We came

here to remove a perceived threat. It’s removed. We hung around to help

you guys get in shape, from a Christian sense of moral obligation. That

obligation is, however, finite. We figure we can’t do more. So, we’re

leaving.”

Rich, the belief that we can “manage” Iraqi society in some way favorable to

our interests is, I think, ill-founded. We have done what we can, and the

point of diminishing returns is here, if not past. Niall Ferguson, who is

intelligent and sober about these things, and extremely well-read in the

history of foreign adventures by Anglo-Saxon powers, figures that 10 years

might do the trick. Are you willing to see a 10-year US occupation of Iraq?

I am not. Are the Iraqis? Is the US electorate?

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