David Ignatius says the White House is adopting the ISG recommendations after all, and it’s a case of “better late than never.” But is it, really? It seems to me that to a very large extent we’ve gotten to the sorry position we’re in precisely through the Bush administration’s longtime habit of doing the right thing 6–12 months too late.
Sometimes, things just can’t be done too late. I keep trying to construct an analogy involving boats going over waterfalls, but the point is this. At each phase of the venture, suggests have been made of ways the US could lower our goals in the hopes of achieving something rather than just letting things get worse and worse and worse forever. The Bush administration then dismisses these critics as unduly pessimistic and things further deteriorate. Then, critics step-up their level of pessimism in response to the deterioration. At that point, the administration says the critics are being too pessimistic and adopts the policy recommendations they rejected months ago. But thanks to the continued deterioration of the situation, those old recommendations don’t work anymore.
The ISG, meanwhile, was already several shades too timid back in December. It was, however, at least cleared-eyed about the situation in Iraq. Months later, we’re further than ever from sectarian reconciliation, and the other points are essentially moot.