Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Least Bad Option in Iraq

Below, Fz asks:

If we want to succeed (and despite what the Bush Administration says, Democrats would like to see a success), we need to first define what that is. I'm torn about how we should define success. Should we create a strict definition and say it isn't possible? Or should we make it easier to achieve? Do we shoot for the best possible outcome or the most practical outcome?
I think there are two different issues here. As a matter of policy, it's clear that the US must think in terms of the "least bad" option in Iraq. No form of "success" as it was originally understood (establishing a peaceful, democratic, pro-American state to contribute to the democratic transformation of the Middle East) is possible in the foreseeable future. Continuing to chase this pony is counterproductive. Instead, the US should concentrate on the least bad option it can realistically hope for at this point, which is a fairly stable state that does not play host to al-Qaeda, isn't too beholden to Iran, and keeps ethnic conflict below the level of a civil war. I'm not breaking any new ground here; serious strategic thinkers have been saying this for years.

On the other hand, from the perspective of public relations the US should indeed try to define the "least bad" option as a success. The Bush administration appears to recognize this, as it has slowly shifted rhetoric to emphasize the goal of achieving stability in Iraq over the creation of a region-transforming, model democratic state.

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