Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Douthat's Weak Grasp of History

I was planning to make some snarky comments about Douthat's attempt to compare the occupation of Iraq to the occupation of the Philippines, but instead I'll defer to Spencer Ackerman and Robert Farley. But this?
But America’s most important interest remains a stable, unified Republic of Iraq, even if takes longer than any domestic faction wants. Afghanistan may be “the good war” to most Americans, but Iraq’s size, location, history and resources mean that it’s still by far the more important one.

Yes, the 9/11 plot got its start in a chaotic, conflict-ridden Afghanistan. But a Middle East-wide war could get its start in a chaotic, conflict-ridden Iraq. Indeed, before the surge, it almost did. This reality will keep us heavily involved, one way or another, long after our “withdrawal” is complete.
Seriously, can Douthat answer these three questions:
  1. How, exactly, can we transform Iraq into the nation we want instead of the nation it is?

  2. Exactly how much will we have to invest in terms of time, money, and lives to make that happen, and what costs will the Iraqi people absorb as we fulfill our goal?

  3. How do you know that things won't progress at least as well, or perhaps even better, if we do our best to leave and let the Iraqis run their own country?

If he can't be exact, approximations will suffice - shall we say, plus or minus five years? Plus or minus the lives of one thousand U.S. soldiers? Plus or minus the lives of 10,000 Iraqis? Plus or minus $100 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars?

When Douthat scored his gig at the times, people talked about how he was a good thinker. I'm trying to keep an open mind... Yet while I have discovered his certitude and can't miss his cornucopia of platitudes, I have yet to develop the sense that his still waters run deep. He's good at spotting issues, he's good at describing problems, and he's good at polite condescension toward those with whom he disagrees, but he either believes that's where the job ends or is incapable of further analysis. Am I wrong to expect more?

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