Iraq's improving. Deal with it.

I am, as readers know, generally of the opinion that the Iraq War has been a clusterbomb of badly made decisions leading to even worse outcomes. And those who opposed the war had every right to become frustrated and angry when the war's more gung-ho supporters refused to acknowlege evidence that things were going very, very badly.

Lately, however, the anti-war side is beginning to sound a lot like the boosters they were so angry at. This is the particular example that caught my eye, but there is an increasingly rich body of blog posts and other writing that are the collective equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting "La la la la la la la I can't HEAR you!"

Look, data from Iraq are bad. Bad, bad, bad. We don't know to any reasonable degree of certainty how many civilians have been killed, how many are displaced, how many are now living abroad; how the material condition of Iraq's many millions has changed since the war; or how many have lived or died because of the secondary effects of our invasion. We will never know those things well, but right now we don't even really know them badly, because it's very hard to gather data.

So one has to be cautious in making any statement about conditions in Iraq, and whether they are getting better or worse. But the best collection of data we have is Brookings' Iraq Index. To be sure I find a lot of their data kind of sketchy--David Petraeus may be a swell chap, but I'm not sure I want to rely on a powerpoint presentation he gave to Congress as my sole source of information about Iraqi civilian casualties. However, in the cases where the data is sketchy, they're nonetheless the best we have.

So while I wouldn't make any definitive statement about many of these data individually, collectively, they present a pretty powerful case that things in Iraq are imrpoving rapidly. All the indicators are going in the same direction. Yes, there could be some explanation for reverse refugee flows other than the obvious, which is that people love their country, and want to live there if it is not too dangerous. Any of the improvements could be explained away. But taken as a group, the various quibbles are easily sliced by Ockham's Razor.

The improvement may not last. And even if it does, there's still a fine argument to be made that the suffering which preceded it made the invasion a terrible, terrible idea. But the current strategy of ignoring the news from Iraq, or quibbling with it, doesn't lay a sound foundation for making that argument.

Presented by

Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

Just In