Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Well Said: Defining Catastrophe

Jim Henley writes:

A rhetorical change I’m noticing since the ISG report came out is that we have to stay in Iraq “to prevent a wider regional war,” aka “the new thirty years’ war” and so on. That suggests that our mission is no longer preventing “full-blown civil war,” which used to be what we had to prevent, or “increased sectarian strife,” which is what we had to prevent before that, or “increasing insurgent violence” which is what we had to prevent before that. The pattern has always been:

1. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Bad Thing from happening.

2. Bad Thing happens anyway.

3. Declare that we must stay in Iraq to prevent some Worse Thing from happening.

4. Worse Thing happens anyway.

5. Reiterate sequence.

At no point does the “Sensible Center” consider that the previous failures implicate our ability to fulfill the new mission, which is always paradoxically grander in scale while being a retreat from previous ambitions.