Monday, November 21, 2005

Interesting Non-Debate

Well, the call for a debate on an immediate Iraq pullout was a bit of a bust. The responses ranged from "you're right, out now" to "maybe it is time to consider getting out now."

All the posts were interesting (except one that I deleted, heading off Gresham at the pass), but there were two contributions that I wanted to share on the front page:

Heatkernel provides a link to a very thoughtful Salon article regarding the dim prospects for any foreseeable benefit accruing from a continued American presence in Iraq. I'm not endorsing the article wholeheartedly as I have some disagreements with it, but hopefully I can get into that later. It is a very clear and compelling case for withdrawal no matter how you slice it.

Also, Uncle Kevin came through with an interesting analogy that I really like. I particularly like it because this principle is in a way the other side of the coin to a principle he elucidated to me when I was about 15, and that lecture has stayed with me for 14 years and given me a lot of insight into various problems.

Uncle Kevin said:

What we have here is clash between the "Pottery Barn" rule and the the "Humpty Dumpty" rule. Just because we "broke it" doesn't mean we can fix it.

The current argument for staying is to complete the process that Wolfowitz and company started. Basically, that would be constructing a government from scratch. They would argue it takes time and that they are meeting their "milestones".

What you are arguing is a classic systems engineering predicament. If one completes a flawed process will one have a flawed product? In otherwords, can you do everything right, and still get it wrong. Managers argue that no process is perfect so it is valid to execute a flawed process or nothing would ever get accomplished. My problem with this argument, in this context, is that not all processes will accomplish something. Proven processes can accomplish something. That's how we know how to cook. But just throwing food on the stove doesn't necessarily accomplish anything.

There are precious few, if any, examples of the current strategy actually accomplishing what we claim to be pursuing, and plenty of them to the contrary. However, arguing the Humpty Dumpty rule does pit the "it can't be done" crowd against the "hey, at least we're trying" bunch. And usually someone trying gets more support than effectively a "nay sayer".

1 comment:

RBP said...

The arguement for me is not whether or not we should pull out. Of course we should pull out. The problem is, what kind of a world do we live in where the US and Britain smash a regime to bits and then leave the people, factions who have long standing disagreements with each other, to work it out among themselves. No one, at least from what I've read, has been willing to enunciate what happens in the aftermath.
One obvious result would be the death toll for American and British forces would go down. Is this the only goal? Aren't the Shiites and the Sunnis attacking each other already? Would a troop withdrawal lessen these attacks?
It seems the Kurds would benefit most from an immediate withdrawal. It would set up a defacto Kurdistan in the North. Will there be a Shia homeland in the South?
Everyone who's for withdrawal should accept that there is a price to pay. Just as staying the course has it's own price. The question which hasn't been answered is, what is that price?