Economist displays the power of Magical Thinking

Now look, children, here is how you dazzle rather than honestly make an argument:  If the surge is working it is a good reason that we should stay in Iraq; if the surge is not working it is a good reason that we should stay in Iraq.  Huh?  Watch the hand with the ball, not the hand fluttering around in front of your eyes.

From the 13 Sept 07 Print edition “Why They Should Stay”

This newspaper was not wowed by either man. The spin General Petraeus put on the military achievements of the surge exaggerated the gains. Mr Crocker’s claim to see a spirit of sectarian reconciliation bubbling just beneath the surface of Iraq’s stalemated politics was even less convincing. But on one point Mr Crocker was surely right. If America removes its forces while Iraq remains in its present condition, the Iraqi future is indeed likely to be disastrous. For that reason above any other, and despite misgivings about the possibility of even modest success any time soon, our own view is that America (and Britain) ought to stay in Iraq until conditions improve.

So, since its been a disaster we should stay: keep eye on ball as we move below

Here is the Flashy Hand: sure the case for leaving is a “powerful one”, a growing consensus of Democrats and a swelling band of Republicans [Goopers, as they are known around my house] believe that we have lost our “ability to shape the politics of Iraq.” Staying merely helps the Shia avoid sharing power with the Sunni, and it is possible that Iraq will “never come good”, and by his insistence that we stay there with only “token” troop reductions GWB merely postpones the inevitable while our troops [and lots of unmentioned Iraqi people] die “for no good cause”.

It can also be argued that the disaster Mr Crocker says will befall Iraq if America leaves has happened already. America’s military presence has not prevented massive human suffering. At least 100,000 civilians have already been killed in an orgy of sectarian killing. Several million have already been forced out of their homes. Regional states have already intervened by proxy. America’s invasion has given al-Qaeda a new cause, battlefield and haven. And-irony of ironies-the best foreign friend of the Shia-led government that the American army props up in Baghdad is probably not the United States but Iran, America’s great regional adversary

Here comes the hand again:  Concede the point that Iraqis themselves are fed up, (BBC/ABC poll) 47% want us to leave at once, 85% say they have lost confidence in our forces, and 57% including 93% of Sunnis think it fucking okay [my word there, you understand] to attack our troops.  The best you can say is that there may be some reduction in violence, “a kink in a graph” that has generally risen regarding sectarian violence for the past four years.  And our buddies the Sunni tribal chiefs?

[A]re at best fair-weather friends who do not trust and are not trusted by the government in Baghdad.


So, we ask, why should we stay???Well, because if we leave things the Economist guesses that “things will get worse”.  The same poll indicates that 62% of Iraqis think they should have an unified government and 98%(!!) believe it would be a bad thing to seperate along sectarian lines.  So if we leave they won’t be able to manage that. For some reason only the presence of the hated American troops is keeping the country from flying apart as 2% of its citizens wish.  Maybe a non-sectarian army could be created in 18 months, or “maybe the prospect of a new president in Washington in 2009 [of course we could have one before that if some people would do their jobs] will concentrate the minds of squabbling politicians in Baghdad”.

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.

So there we have it:  There is no way we can leave because it is too bad there, and if it was getting better there would be no way we could leave because it would be folly to quit now when our efforts and sacrifices were beginning to bear fruit.  A new President in Washington will concentrate their minds, but being told our troops are leaving won’t.  An astronomically high number of Iraqi citizens want to stay citizens and not be split up, a very high number think its okay to kill US troops, but if we pull our troops out, they will break up.  The argument the Economist makes, and remember they have supported this war through thick and thin, doesn’t hold up.  When will it be time to leave, who knows, maybe when we learn to see into the future and will know for certain what will happen next.  What we do know, and what we know for certain, is that too many people have died because we are there, we went there for illegitimate reasons that had to do with our leaders lying to us, and it seems to me that it is also certain-as can be-that it is time to bring the troops home.

I’m not one who blames the Iraqi government too much for not getting their shit together, it seems that would be a difficult thing with our government involved, so let us leave, let the world help the Iraqi people and let us try to learn from our folly.  But let us not listen to this kind of drivel from a once-respecable newpaper.


  1. blockquote.  It is my sentence, and not the Economist’s.  I’ve been searching for the edit function and haven’t found it, so consider this my apology for that sloppy piece of work.

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