Doing the Impossible

More

070619-N-3653A-003

Brian Beutler:

For instance, right now we are trying to both extend the reach of the Maliki government as far as possible across the country and also to support Sunnis in their sectarian skirmishes against both Shiites and other Sunnis wherever an alliance is possible. Not surprisingly, these two objectives are almost definitionally at odds with each other. We're foolish to even try to promote both a factionalist and a federalist effort at the same time, but we're especially foolish when that means trying to bring a Shiite-dominated government into power over a land peppered with U.S.-supported Sunni tribal regions. My impression is that even as individual efforts these would both sink anyhow. But it's amazing that, with all of the resources the administration has handed over to the war effort, we're still approaching problems in such a way that even incremental plans are more likely to fail than they ought to be.

It's important to understand that this is the context in which the training fantasies of the "withdrawal lite" school of thought are unfolding. The training is a fallback position, a useful psychological crutch that people have also convinced themselves is a useful political crutch, but it has nothing to do with what's happening on the ground. If there are two sides fighting and you want one of them to win then, sure, you can train your side. But we're just training everyone who'll agree to be trained; equipping multiple sides in a civil conflict and creating a situation where the weapons and expertise we're providing is just as likely to be deployed against our interests as in favor of them two or four years down the road.

DOD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Summer M. Anderson, U.S. Navy.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

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

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In