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.

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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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