Even Belmont

A passionate war supporter now urges pragmatism, nuance and flexibility even in defining what our actual goals are in Iraq. Money quote:

My only observation is that Iraq is never quite the same place over time. While there are elements about it which endure, the character of the conflict has changed in so many respects that the correct frame of reference (it seems to me) is not back towards some archaic policy expectation expressed in a 2003 or 2004 document but in identifying the drivers of the dynamic and attempting to influence it in ways that only become apparent as you go along. Our goals are something we will have to discover.

I know this sounds awfully wooly and unspecific, so let me try it explaining the thought in this way. Nonlinear dynamic systems like unstable societies are very sensitive to initial conditions. Arbitrarily small perturbations can lead to significantly different effects in the future; hence their behavior can't be predicted confidently very far into the future. You can't treat them in a linear manner. The only way to handle them in by shortening your reaction cycle to manage and so, hope to influence where the system will converge given enough time.