Filling the Idea Void in Iraq

fiasco.jpgWe have hit bot­tom in Iraq. And you know it because the debates over Iraq (whether the war was just, whether we planned it ade­quate­ly, whether we have a mean­ing­ful exist strat­e­gy, etc.) have ground to a halt. The big defend­ers of the war effort have most­ly gone silent, or they’re no longer tak­en seri­ous­ly, and what we’re left with is a deficit of ideas all around. There are those who talk about stay­ing in Iraq, but can’t artic­u­late a cred­i­ble strat­e­gy for mov­ing for­ward. And those who talk about leav­ing, but can’t out­line how we’ll leave Iraq in a moral­ly defen­si­ble posi­tion. We hear a lot in the way of plat­i­tudes, lit­tle in the way of sub­stance.

This Fresh Air inter­view (stream it here) with Thomas Ricks, author of the best­seller Fias­co: The Amer­i­can Mil­i­tary Adven­ture in Iraq, helps fill the idea void a bit. (His book, by the way, comes out in paper­back lat­er this week.) Hav­ing recent­ly returned from Iraq, Ricks talks about the real options now avail­able to the US, and what steps the Bush admin­is­tra­tion will like­ly take dur­ing its last 18 months. Also, he dis­cuss­es how the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary has changed its m.o. in Iraq. Gone are the days when pol­i­tics dic­tat­ed a sun­ny out­look and no real plans. Now, adults are run­ning the show, and they’re get­ting a good deal more real­is­tic and prag­mat­ic. But even they rec­og­nize that this new­found wis­dom is com­ing per­haps too late.

Relat­ed Note: George Pack­er, the main jour­nal­ist who cov­ered the war effort for The New York­er, has recent­ly rolled out a blog for the mag­a­zine. It’s called “Inter­est­ing Times” and it’s sure to help fill the idea void as well. Give it a look here.

Want to down­load free cours­es from top uni­ver­si­ties? Check out this new pod­cast col­lec­tion.

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  • > The big defend­ers of the war effort have most­ly gone silent, or they’re no longer tak­en seri­ous­ly, and what we’re left with is a deficit of ideas all around.

    Um… what this says is that the only peo­ple with ideas were the defend­ers of the war. because once they go silent, there’s a deficit of ideas.

    All the ideas the anti-war crowd float­ed before and dur­ing the war — things like under­stand­ing why Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy has caused so much hate, things like learn­ing to work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with oth­er nations rather than uni­lat­er­al­ly, learn­ing to respect inter­na­tion­al agen­cies and laws rather than flout­ing them at every turn — are still valid and viable.

    True, the rest of the world — even that part that actu­al­ly likes Amer­i­cans — does­n’t trust the U.S. very much these days, giv­en its inex­plic­a­ble inabil­i­ty to do the right thing. Learn­ing to lis­ten to the voic­es of rea­son in your own midst — the peo­ple silent in this post — would be a good start.

    There is only one viable option for the U.S. in Iraq — get out. The rest of the world has long ago reached this con­sen­sus (in fact, they reached it before the U.S. went in).

  • Dan Colman says:

    I think all I was say­ing is that the ini­tial debates at least forced peo­ple to think, and, in the midst of it, the crit­ics made some halfway nuanced points.

    With the debate hav­ing died down, I don’t see much in the way of fresh think­ing. Get­ting out of Iraq may make sense. But there is still the ques­tion of how, and at what cost, and, on that score, I don’t see much in the way of seri­ous think­ing. Hence why I focused on Ricks who has been on the ground and under­stands what the most real­is­tic next steps will/can be.

    The ques­tion for me is not whether the ini­tial crit­i­cisms were valid. It’s whether the cur­rent think­ing is informed and real­is­tic, and I am not sure that it is.

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