The Iraq Loop

Fareed Zakaria, quoting David Kilcullen, notes that the United States has not “built a sustainable security architecture” in Iraq. That is certainly true. I agree not only with the statement but with the objective: building a sustainable security architecture there.

Let’s suit means to ends. We must, in concert with the Iraqis, build such a sustainable architecture the same way you teach a beginner to swim. Only the ignorant, the stupid, or the cruel throws a beginner into the water, trusting to the beginner’s instinct of self-preservation to preserve him. No, you proceed in slow, gradual stages—walking together in shallow water, practicing the strokes, dog-paddling with a steadying hand always ready and so on until the beginner has the ability and confidence to swim on her own.

A slow, gradual process, much too boring for the nightly news. Not one that follows the U. S. election calendar.

6 comments… add one
  • Hmmm, analogies from childhood. Let’s see now…

    Taking off the training wheels on the bike…
    Kicking the fledgling out of the nest to fly…

    …living in the parents’ basement forever eating cheetos…

    Tricky things, analogies. 🙂

    Regards, C

  • I see you’ve never observed birds since birds don’t do that. It is natural for birds to fly and when they’re ready and able to they do it just as it’s natural for human beings to walk and parents, whatever their pretensions, don’t teach kids to walk. They’ll do it when they’re ready.

    Is liberal democracy natural for human being? I have no idea and I certainly wouldn’t have invaded Iraq under that assumption. That option isn’t open to me or us any more.

    Removing training wheels before the kid is ready is cruel and stupid. Judgment is what marks the difference between responsible parents and cruel, indifferent ones.

    I’m all for identifying when the Iraqis are ready for us to leave and then leaving but I oppose setting a time unrelated to events on the ground for doing so.

    Yes, analogies are always imperfect. The territory is not the map. Unfortunately, all we’ve got to talk with are maps.

    If your point is that the Iraqis are irresponsible children and will sit on their duffs for as long as we let them, prove it. Anything else is just wishful thinking.

  • It’s been five years and the Iraqi national government has accomplished little. It might be cruel to prematurely remove the training wheels, but let’s talk about that analogy. My son was very reluctant to ride without training wheels. I saw that he could do it but was refusing to make that final leap. So I left him no choice. In effect, I ordered him to do it. Right now, not later, now. It’s that overused cliche, “tough love.”

    Needless to say, I was right. He was fine. And now he loves riding. The truth is that people sometimes need a kick in the ass before they can make progress. God knows I’ve needed a few, I’m guessing you did as well. If there are any coaches or drill sergeants reading this, I suspect they know what I’m talking about. Not every choice is made with perfect freedom of action.

    I could have just told him he could use the training wheels in perpetuity. That would have been a mistake. The dependancy would become self-reinforcing. A temporary freeze-up might have become a way of life.

    So, at what point are we teaching Iraqis dependance on us? At what point does it become self-reinforcing? 5 years so far. How many more? It’s not enough to say let’s wait and see. Not if by waiting we’re causing the very phenomenon we hope to see end.

  • A key, difference, Michael, is that when we walk away, we’re gone. That’s the political reality.

    I completely agree that our commitment shouldn’t be indefinite and I completely support benchmarks for measuring progress. It took years for Germany and Japan (there go the analogies again) to stand on their own and they had a lot more civil infrastructure than the Iraqis do.

    Note, too, that absolutely nobody in the presidential race, however much they might posture, is suggesting that we just walk away from Iraq.

  • Oh, we’re not going to walk away. I take Hillary and Obama with a grain of salt on this. If I believed them I don’t think I’d be able to vote for them.

  • Then the training wheels will still be on.

    Note that I believe that either Obama or Clinton will leave 60,000-80,000 troops in Iraq. Check my post on Hillary’s “announcement” from yesterday. Her prepared text (which I analyzed for my post) differs from the speech as she gave it in some interesting ways.

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