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Plus Ça Change

By Matthew Yglesias

"Plus Ça Change"

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David Brooks, April 10 2004:

Come on people, let’s get a grip.

This week, Chicken Littles like Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were ranting that Iraq is another Vietnam. Pundits and sages were spinning a whole series of mutually exclusive disaster scenarios: Civil war! A nationwide rebellion!

January 25, 2007:

Iraq is at the beginning of a civil war fought using the tactics of genocide, and it has all the conditions to get much worse. As a Newsweek correspondent, Christian Caryl, wrote recently from Baghdad, “What’s clear is that we’re far closer to the beginning of this cycle of violence than to its end.” As John Burns of The Times said on “Charlie Rose” last night, “Friends of mine who are Iraqis — Shiite, Sunni, Kurd — all foresee a civil war on a scale with bloodshed that would absolutely dwarf what we’re seeing now.”

September 18, 2004:

As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army. They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are much better equipped to win an insurgency war.

January 25, 2007:

The weakness of the Bush surge plan is that it relies on the Maliki government to somehow be above this vortex. But there are no impartial institutions in Iraq, ready to foster reconciliation. As ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes in The Weekly Standard, the Shiite finance ministries now close banks that may finance Sunni investments. The Saadrist health ministries dismiss Sunni doctors. The sectarian vortex is not fomented by extremists who are appendages to society. The vortex is through and through.

So having heaped scorn a few years ago on doves who were later proven right — not necessarily shown to be all-wise, all-knowing sages on all subjects, but who certainly demonstrated a greater degree of understanding of the nation of Iraq and the dynamics of the war there — does Brooks have a less scornful view of those same people and their ideas today? Of course not: “The Democratic approach, as articulated by Senator Jim Webb — simply get out of Iraq ‘in short order’ — is a howl of pain that takes no note of the long-term political and humanitarian consequences.”

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