Thursday, August 18, 2005

Two Sober Assessments of Iraq

For those of you who haven't already made up your minds what Democrats should specifically say and do about Iraq at this moment, I encourage you to read two pieces posted this week on The New Republic site that essentially offer a glass-half-full and glass-half empty assessment of recent events. Both are sharply critical of Bush administration policies, past and present, and both are essentially pessimistic, yet neither expresses total hopelessness about the possibility that the U.S. can exit Iraq without leaving a complete disaster.

The glass-half-full offering is by Larry Diamond, the justifiably renowned author of Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and The Bungled Effort To Bring Democracy to Iraq. Diamond points out that the deferred constitutional agreement in Iraq not only illustrates the key points on which the parties are not agreed, but also the refusal of the parties to override each other with unacceptable demands, so far at least.

The glass-half-empty rejoinder is by TNR's own Spencer Ackerman, author of the late, great "Iraq'd" blog, who suggests the unacceptable demands and the likely divisive consequences are still looming over the proceedings.

You should read both articles, and reflect on the continuing relevance of facts on the ground in Iraq and the challenge facing Democrats who deplore Bush's policies, think the course he has plotted and mindlessly defended has taken the U.S. and Iraq down the road to perdition, but want to propose a responsible alternative given the options we actually face.

I say this in no small part because of the current rash of claims out there in the blogosphere (too numerous to cite) that any Democrat who isn't simply for a fixed timetable for withdrawal is blindly supporting Bush's stay-the-course-til-doomsday path. Diamond and Ackerman show there's a lot of space for debate between these two fixed poles, and it's a debate that only Democrats are willing to undertake.

We should treat our openness to debate and to objective reality as a source of strength, not of weakness.

UPDATE: This post may have created the impression that Larry Diamond and Spencer Ackerman themselves reject the idea of a fixed timetable. Diamond does, but Ackerman does not; indeed, he called for a withdrawal from Iraq quite some time ago. I regret the inference otherwise. Ackerman's honest and informed ongoing assessement of developments on the ground in Iraq may have left some readers thinking all was not lost, but his own judgment to the contrary deserves respect.
-- Posted at 9:44 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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