Since I don't know how to contact Tom Hayden directly...

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... let me send him a message this way.

He recently wrote a (very polite and respectful) reference to comments I'd made about the need to stick it out in Iraq. He then used this to illustrate the larger problem of people who had opposed the war but were unwilling to face the need to withdraw. The words of mine he quoted were:

I have come to this sobering conclusion. The United States can best train Iraqis, and therefore best help itself leave Iraq, only by making a long-term commitment to stay.

I did write those words. I wrote them two years ago, in an Atlantic article published late in 2005 called "Why Iraq Has No Army."

That's not what I think any more. Here is what I wrote one year after that, nearly a year ago, in explaining why I had come to an even grimmer conclusion about Iraq:

If it is not in our power to prevent these disasters [possible post-withdrawal carnage in Iraq], then it is better to do as little extra damage to ourselves as possible before they occur. Sure, it is theoretically in our power to do more in Iraq. It's just not possible in the real world. To start with: we're not going to double the size of our military to sustain an open-ended presence in Iraq.
So the choice is between a terrible decision and one that is even worse. The terrible decision is just to begin leaving, knowing that even more innocent civilians will be killed and that we'll be dealing with agitation out of Iraq for years to come. The worse decision would be to wait another year, or two, or three and then take that terrible course. If we thought a longer commitment and presence would lead to a better outcome, then the extra commitment might be sensible. But nothing occurring in Iraq in the last year has given rise to any hope that things are getting better rather than worse. (This, by the way, is the reason I have changed my mind: the absence of evidence that the chances for a "decent" departure will improve.)

The second comment was in this blog, not in the magazine. It is weirdly reassuring to think that magazine articles have more staying power than blog entries -- as they should. But for the record, also in friendly and respectful terms, I left the "stick it out" camp last year. The facts changed, or at least my understanding of them

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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