I’ve noted time and again that one curious element of current US strategy in Iraq is that many of the people charged with planning and implementing it think it will probably fail. Here’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle Eastern Affairs Mark Kimmitt telling people at the Heritage Foundation “if I had to put a number to it, maybe it’s three in 10, maybe it’s 50–50, if we play our cards right.” Now, I think the surge’s proponents are being overly optimistic about this stuff.
But the optimists aren’t especially optimistic. And it’s not as if we’re locked in some desperate battle for national survival where it makes sense to roll the dice on low-probability gambles. The war’s costs are very real and enormous, while the benefits of success are hard to discern and unlikely to materialize.