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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

07 December 2005

The inconclusive war?

Anne Applebaum’s column in the Washington Post is one of the more sensible things written on the ongoing debate on Iraq. Here is an excerpt:

“But what if all of this vocabulary -- winning, losing, victory, defeat -- is simply misplaced? There are, after all, wars that are not actually won or lost. There are wars that achieve some of their goals, that result only in partial solutions and that leave much business unfinished. There are wars that do not end with helicopters evacuating Americans from the embassy roof but that do not produce a victorious march into Berlin, either. There are wars that end ambivalently -- wars, for example, such as the one we fought in Korea.”

There is something to this, which is why America should be engaged in a parallel debate: what kind of outcome is acceptable (not desirable or undesirable) in Iraq? With what kind of scenarios will America be willing to make its peace? There are two thoughts that could inform this talk: the first is that a not fully democratic Iraq probably remains an improvement to the status quo ante, posing a less significant threat to American interests in the region. Even if this political order sends fewer or slower ripple effects in the region, a functional polity in Iraq could still reverberate favorably to the neighborhood.

The second is that the delimitation of what is acceptable is very much a function of optimism and faith. As a Middle East analyst recently intoned, what America will settle for depends in large part on what America thinks it can accomplish. This faith is very much tied to the domestic political reality, which is the reason that prolonged fatalism is likely to produce its own result. But at least there is an escape from the constant back-and-forth about dates and timetables. This is a better discussion to have, even if only in the background.

References:
Anne Applebaum, “It’s Not Whether You ‘Win’ or ‘Lose’ …” Washington Post, 7 Dec 05 (link)

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