Pottery Barn vs. Bull in the China Shop
[UPDATE: Atrios links to this memo as well and comments that it "isn't getting much play". Let's see if our left-wing noise machine can change that. I bet it will.]
[UPDATE 2: Sullivan's got it now, too. I think the blogosphere is going to push this into the spotlight.]
Of course, for those of us in the reality-based community, this isn’t too shocking. We’ve been hearing this kind of stuff for some time now. But this document (if genuine-always keep in mind that strange documents turning up may not be the real deal) is interesting because it comes from Khalizad and was sent to the Secretary of State. So it’s some inside insight into what our ambassador really thinks is going on, and what he’s telling our administration.
So what is an anti-war person supposed to do with this kind of information? To me, there’s a lot of force behind the “Pottery Barn” argument: we broke it, so we own it, so it’s our responsibility to fix it. Straightforward and simple and clear. And if I thought this administration could “fix it”, I might be persuaded by this argument. But it seems to me that this administration can’t do it. In fact, it appears to me that this administration doesn’t even take the Iraq war that seriously. What!?!? Oh sure, they talk about staying the course ad nauseam, but I don’t see any actions that show they take what’s going on seriously.
If the folks in this administration actually took the war as seriously as they claim to, they’d get rid of Rumsfeld. (To Rumsfeld’s credit, he did offer to resign. It’s Bush who’s kept him on. And for all my frustration with Andrew Sullivan’s intermittent support of this war, he and I are of one mind on this point.) If they took this war seriously, they would make sure this country could pay for it. If they took this war seriously, they’d ask Americans to sacrifice for victory. If they took this war seriously, they’d come down like a hammer on anything that smacked of torture or mistreatment of Iraqis. If they took this war seriously, we wouldn’t be playing whack-a-mole with the insurgency because we would have enough troops to pacify a strife-ridden country.
Instead of the “Pottery Barn Rule”, I want to present the “Bull in the China Shop Rule”: If there’s a bull in the china shop breaking stuff, you don’t stomp your foot indignantly and demand that the bull glue the broken stuff back together. You get the bull out of the china shop before it breaks more stuff. The bull doesn’t know how to fix things, and you don’t want it to try. It would only make things worse. Maybe we should be talking about the “shit or get off the pot rule”: If you’ve occupied a foreign country, do what you’re going to do, or get out. Don’t just hang around getting shot at and pissing people off.
Not that there aren’t potentially disastrous consequences for withdrawal. I’m not arguing that at all. It could be hell on earth. It’s just that I’m not convinced that staying will avert those consequences. And as I’ve said before, at least if we aren’t there it won’t be us getting killed, and won’t be us killing others.
What would it take for me to support this war? Bush would have cut the bullshit. Bush would have to come out and say something like this: “Iraq is going horribly, and we’re going to do a major strategic shift. We’re going to increase our troop strength by 250,000. We’re going to launch a building and infrastructure plan that’ll make the Marshall Plan look like Tinker Toys. To pay for this, we’re going to repeal all of the tax giveaways we irresponsibly handed out. I’m firing Rumsfeld now and putting Shinseki in charge of the occupation. And I am personally moving to Baghdad and living outside the Green Zone so I can see first hand what the hell is going on there. And by the way, I’m also going to enact some stiff fuel economy laws and launching a “Manhattan Project” style push to come up with alternate sources of energy.” The sad thing is, even if we did all this, it would still be a tough slog. But at least I’d know he’s frickin’ SERIOUS about this war. Then I might support it. But if this administration isn’t even supporting this war, why should I?