Max Bergmann’s polite explanation of why there’s no viable “middle way” in Iraq between an indefinite military presence and an expeditious withdrawal is recommended to all and sundry. Or, rather, there is a middle way but that way simply consists of adopting the logic of indefinite engagement and then adding hope that things will just work out very nicely and we’ll be done in five more years’ time.
This, though, is just what the Bush administration has been doing all this time. The proponents of the tactical policy framework du jour never explicitly outline their favored policy as likely to fail and require the war to continue indefinitely. Rather, each gambit from the transfer of sovereignty in June 2004 to the first, second, and third Baghdad security plans to the rise of Ibrahim al-Jafari to the fall of Jafari to the rise of Maliki to the surge and beyond were supposed to succeed, it’s just that they all failed. One needs to answer the strategic question at some point of whether this is all worth it. I think the answer is clearly “no.” There are pressing, fairly urgent reasons to disengage from Iraq not least of which is the continued piling-on of the death toll. Meanwhile, there aren’t good odds of accomplishing anything especially worthwhile there within a reasonable time frame.