Buckley On Iraq

I have no reason to believe this isn't an accurate assessment:

I believe it's fair to say that WFB supported the invasion of Iraq and began to have misgivings about the result that led him to reconsider the whole enterprise -- but that he also supported the troops surge. Last year, he made a personal contribution to the presidential campaign of John McCain.

I'm pinioned in the same place. I didn't believe the surge, as advertized, would work in even reducing the violence. I was wrong about that, even though I was following Petraeus's own metrics. But surely two facts help explain its unexpected success: the Sunni insurgency decided that crazy Jihadists were temporarily a greater threat than the Shiites or the Americans, and were happy to be trained, armed and paid by the US to regain control of their territory; and Sadr decided it was in his interests to facilitate rather than impede the construction of a Shiite-dominated state. The question now is whether the reduced violence means a greater chance of an historic rapprochement between the various ethnic and sectarian factions that divide Iraq at a national level - which was explicitly the goal of the surge. I don't see any serious evidence that this is the case. Yes, at a local level, it seems as if there is some cross-sectarian interaction. But every apparent step forward is, more often than not, reversed soon thereafter. That was the case with the de-Baathification law; it now seems to be the case with the recent apparent progress on provincial elections. Perhaps the strategy is to provide enough long-term life-support to allow such tiny, always reversible, glacial steps to proceed. But given the depth of the divide, the trauma of the recent past, the difficulty of knowing who is fooling whom, we're talking about a commitment decades long, with no surety of any success. We're talking about those parts of empire that only drain.

And, following WFB, I've been struck in retrospect by the utopianism of the whole project. This, I hasten to add, is a conservative judgment, and an indictment of my own previous zeal.

At the same time, I don't want to miss twists and turns that might yield better outcomes. Or strategies that enable us to withdraw as prudently as possible. And there's no one on the right more able to make that argument than McCain. But he hasn't made it convincingly yet. Mere appeals against "the white flag of surrender" are not arguments. We're waiting. For honesty.