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The Ignatius Cycle

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David Ignatius says that in retrospect we should have done more to cheat on Iyad Allawi's behalf in the January 2005 elections. Atrios seems to think he can debunk this talking point by simply noting that, in fact, the US intervened massively on his behalf, but the Serious point is that we always could have intervened more massively.

That Ignatius feels it makes sense to keep writing about this without any mention of the big lobbying campaign under way on Allawi's behalf at the moment is pretty stunning. Of course, when Nouri al-Maliki first came to power, Ignatius hailed this as brilliant progress. That's because Ignatius seemed, during Zalmay Khalilzad's time in Baghdad, to just write whichever columns Khalilzad wanted. During an earlier period, when Robert Blackwill was running the Iraq desk at the NSC, what we mostly heard from Ignatius was about the transcendent genius of Robert Blackwill. Here's an exemplar of the genre from October 2004:

The paradox of Bush is that when you examine his actual policies in Iraq over the past six months, they appear to reflect precisely the sort of learning from experience that the president refuses publicly to acknowledge. The key architect of Iraq policy today is probably Robert Blackwill, a thoughtful former diplomat who serves on the staff of the National Security Council -- not the neoconservatives in the Pentagon such as Paul Wolfowitz, who urged the president to war. Wolfowitz's idealism has been replaced by Blackwill's calculating pragmatism, at least for the moment.

Today Blackwill is one of Allawi's lobbyists. The point in all of this isn't to be an apologist for Maliki. Back when Allawi first took office in 2004, the Ignatius' of the world hailed this is a brilliant solution. They were wrong. Back when Allawi was booted from power in January 2005 in favor of Ibrahim Jafari, folks proclaimed this a great success and said Bush's Iraq policy had been vindicated. They were wrong. Back when Jafari was ousted in favor of Maliki, people proclaimed this, too, as a crucial step in the right directed. They were wrong. Now Maliki's the problem and Allawi -- again! -- is the solution. But they're still wrong, shuffling the personnel roster in Baghdad in this way isn't helping.

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

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