It seems things in Iraq are stabilizing for now. Some of the outright panic we saw in the press was clearly unjustified, but I hope we see some more realism in conservative commentary on Iraq going forward. There has been a distinct tendency toward happy-talk from the hawks since the end of the war. The post-war looting was explained away at the time as the natural and understandable exuberance of a newly-liberated people (now some coalition officials cite the unrest as one of the reasons reconstruction has been so slow). Then we watched a conservative secretary of defense deny the obvious reality of a guerilla resistance and compare it to urban street crime in the United States (!). Then we were told killing Uday and Qusay meant we had turned a corner. Then capturing Saddam meant we had turned a corner. Then, when the corner remained unturned, every three-day period when Americans weren’t killed was hailed somewhere on the web as a great sign of a breakthrough. Throughout, hawks have comforted themselves with the utterly meaningless cliché “Failure is not an option.” And we are supposed to be the hard-headed and realistic ones? Well, failure is very much an option. That doesn’t mean it’s inevitable, but I think it is very much possible that we could do everything right in the coming months and still fail. This problem is just that hard. We should remain resolute, but downplay expectations. If we leave Iraq in some sort of orderly condition, with some sort of legitimate non-dictatorial government, and a roughly working economy, we will be doing very well. But it won’t happen unless reality gets a little more respect from hawks inside and outside the administration than it has to this point.