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Escalation

By Matthew Yglesias

"Escalation"

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The good news about the forthcoming surge is that everyone now concedes that addition troops sent to Iraq “must be given clear instructions” and while “U.S. commanders in Iraq have not settled on what that mission should be” they do assure us that they will “decide before calling up new units.” This does strike me as strongly preferable to sending 20,000 young men and women to Iraq and just letting them get shot at for a few months before deciding what to do with them. At any rate, this highlights my career advice for General Petraeus as we see that the very same American commanders who’ve been opposing the “surge” idea are now on board for it. They report to the President, after all, and the president wants to “surge” so the generals need to support the surge as well. This is a chain-of-command you want to stay far away from.

Meanwhile, Kevin Drum says this is a bad idea but he’s glad to see it happen anyway:

Conservatives long ago convinced themselves against all evidence that we could have won in Vietnam if we’d only added more troops or used more napalm or nuked Hanoi or whatever, and they’re going to do the same thing in Iraq unless we allow them to play this out the way they want. If they don’t get to play the game their way, they’ll spend the next couple of decades trying to persuade the American public that there was nothing wrong with the idea of invading Iraq at all. We just never put the necessary resources into it.

I think it’s good to see liberals worrying some about this long-term issue. I think Kevin’s way of thinking about it, however, is a bit misguided. Irrespective of what objective events occur on the ground, there will be a revisionist movement to blame American failure in Iraq on a liberal stab-in-the-back. It’s on us — Kevin, me, anyone who writes about politics for a living, hell, anyone who reads about politics frequently — to prevent this from becoming the conventional wisdom.

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