Punditry 101

The primary question facing America’s pundit class today is how to avoid responsibility for the situation in Iraq, which is almost certain to get much worse over the next two or three years. As Jon Chait observes “Every self-respecting foreign policy analyst has his own plan for Iraq. The trouble is that these tracts are inevitably unconvincing, except when they argue why all the other plans would fail. It’s all terribly grim.” This is, I think, the best context in which to understand things like Frederick Kagan’s argument that we can and should send many more troops to Iraq. I doubt that this would be possible, and I’m quite certain it wouldn’t work. Its great virtue as a plan, however, is that we’re entirely certain not to try it.

Anyone who defends Bush’s strategy is going to wind up looking bad, because after continuing to fail for a while it will be abandonned in favor of withdrawal. Anyone who advocates withdrawal is going to wind up looking bad, because eventually it will be implemented and bad stuff will happen down the road. Consequently, what you need to go is suggest a pony hunt in some territory where you’re sure the administration won’t go looking (calls for a regional conference are the center-left version of this) that way when the stay-the-course-until-eventually-you-leave cycle plays out, you get to claim that if only they’d followed my advice the war would have been won. Meanwhile, blame for defeat will be located primarily not on George W. Bush, but on the stab-in-the-back crowd on the left who made it politically impossible for Bush to find the pony.