Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Realism from The Economist

Posted by Ron Coleman on September 19, 2007

Blame is one thing; policymaking is another. The Economist recognizes, in its cover story, what the antiwar crowd will not: The wisdom of the choice to go to war with Saddam Hussein is only slightly related to the question of what policy to pursue now:

If the case for staying depended on extrapolating from the modest gains the general claims for his surge, it would be a weak one. The strong case is that if America leaves, things will get even worse. This can only be a guess, but it is more plausible than the alternative guess that America’s going will nudge Iraq in the right direction. In the past two years, violence has tended to decline where American troops are present and to rise in the places they leave. There is no doubt that some Shia militias want to rid Baghdad of its Sunnis and that American troops are for now the only thing stopping them. Contrary to what foreigners think, most Iraqis say they oppose partition: in the BBC/ABC poll, 62% said Iraq should have a unified government and 98% said it would be a bad thing for the country to separate on sectarian lines. . . .

If America could choose again, it would not step into a civil war in Mesopotamia. But there are worse reasons than preventing a bloodbath for a superpower to put its soldiers at risk. Having invaded Iraq in its own interest—to remove mass-killing weapons that turned out not to exist—America owes something to Iraq’s people, a slim majority of whom want it to stay. It is hard to know how Iraq can be mended. At some point it may become clear the country has sunk so low it is simply beyond saving. But it is not possible to be sure of that yet.

For a bunch of Europeans, that’s pretty good.

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5 Responses to “Realism from The Economist”

  1. Ara Rubyan said

    A slim majority want us to stay? That’s a new one on me — where’s the data to back that up? Every survey I’ve seen says a very large majority want us to leave NOW and — p.s. — a plurality feels there’s nothing wrong with killing our soldiers, thankyouverymuch.

    As for the rest of it: “The strong case is that if America leaves, things will get even worse.”

    That the “Chaos Hawks” talking.

    Kevin Drum:

    Needless to say, this is nonsense. Israel has fought war after war in the Middle East. Result: no regional conflagration. [Obviously, Israel has paid a steep price — but no regional conflagration has resulted.] Iran and Iraq fought one of the bloodiest wars of the second half the 20th century. Result: no regional conflagration. The Soviets fought in Afghanistan and then withdrew. No regional conflagration. The U.S. fought the Gulf War and then left. No regional conflagration. Algeria fought an internal civil war for a decade. No regional conflagration.

    P.S. Do you really want to debate Vietnam? Because I don’t think the lessons of that war are what you think they are.

  2. hydralisk said

    Ara, I would like to see the contrary data. Every survey I’ve seen says that a majority want us to leave…but not immediately. That 45% favor immediate withdrawal is the last I heard. Not that this is the most important metric, now is it? They have their own elected representatives, after all.

    “The strong case is that if America leaves, things will get even worse.”

    Keep reading.

    “In the past two years, violence has tended to decline where American troops are present and to rise in the places they leave. There is no doubt that some Shia militias want to rid Baghdad of its Sunnis and that American troops are for now the only thing stopping them.”

    The former statement is directly supported by the latter. Kevin Drum misses the point completely.

  3. Ara said

    In the past two years, violence has tended to decline where American troops are present and to rise in the places they leave.

    That’s reminds me of the Monty Python sketch where the paleontologist says that his theory is that dinosaurs are pointy at one end, fat in the middle and pointy at the other end.

    Seriously, if after nearly five years of war and occupation, that is the best we can say, then that’s pretty bad.

    At best it means we’re play whack-a-mole…at the rate of 200 American casualties a month and $150 billion a year. Not to mention Iraqi civilian casualties.

    Better if get the hell out of there and spend 1/10 of that on a Marshall Plan.

  4. Ara said

    P.S. The poll data can be found here:

    http://abcnews.go.com/images/US/1043a1IraqWhereThingsStand.pdf

    Here’s a partial summary of findings:

    The number of Iraqis endorsing attacks on US troops has INCREASED since March (ie since the surge has taken effect): 57% as compared to 50% now endorse such attacks (93% of Sunnis, 50% of Shiites, 5% of Kurds). [Note those Sunni numbers!]

    The number of Iraqis saying security has WORSENED since the current US troop buildup (this is an answer to a specific question about the “Surge”) is 70%. Only 12% think it has improved things in the country.

    The number of Iraqis in favor of an IMMEDIATE withdrawal of US troops is now 47%, up from 34% in March

    the number of respondents expressing “a great deal of confidence” in Coalition forces is 4%. The number expressing “no confidence at all” in coalition forces is 58% (up from 52% in March). Overall 85% of Iraqis express little or no confidence in coalition forces (up from 82% this March)

    53% of Iraqis strongly oppose the presence of coalition forces (the highest number ever, up from March of this year). Only 5% strongly approve their presence. In total 79% disapprove of their presence and 21% approve their presence. This is unchanged from earlier this year.

    On “Al Qaeda,” 0% of respondents support attacks by AQ on Iraqis, 1% support AQ attempts to “take over communities,” but 48% support AQ attacks on Americans.

    The Maliki government has an approval rating now of 33% (down from 41% in March)

  5. Ara said

    Detailed polling results:

    The number of Iraqis endorsing attacks on US troops has INCREASED since March (ie since the surge has taken effect): 57% as compared to 50% now endorse such attacks (93% of Sunnis, 50% of Shiites, 5% of Kurds). [Note those Sunni numbers!]

    The number of Iraqis saying security has WORSENED since the current US troop buildup (this is an answer to a specific question about the “Surge”) is 70%. Only 12% think it has improved things in the country.

    The number of Iraqis in favor of an IMMEDIATE withdrawal of US troops is now 47%, up from 34% in March

    the number of respondents expressing “a great deal of confidence” in Coalition forces is 4%. The number expressing “no confidence at all” in coalition forces is 58% (up from 52% in March). Overall 85% of Iraqis express little or no confidence in coalition forces (up from 82% this March)

    53% of Iraqis strongly oppose the presence of coalition forces (the highest number ever, up from March of this year). Only 5% strongly approve their presence. In total 79% disapprove of their presence and 21% approve their presence. This is unchanged from earlier this year.

    On “Al Qaeda,” 0% of respondents support attacks by AQ on Iraqis, 1% support AQ attempts to “take over communities,” but 48% support AQ attacks on Americans.

    The Maliki government has an approval rating now of 33% (down from 41% in March)

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