Matt's right; this Brian Doherty piece on why the Iraq War may yet be regarded - wrongly - as a good idea is very smart. And I basically agree with its premise - that we shouldn't let any successes achieved from here on out blind us to the absolutely disastrous consequences of the initial invasion. Eventually, as Julian Sanchez notes, Iraq is bound to settle down, in some sense at least - but this settling down, if and when it comes, won't prove that the war was a good idea in the first place.

However, something like the reverse is also true: Just because the initial invasion was almost certainly a mistake doesn't necessarily mean that the continued presence of U.S. troops is a mistake as well. And I detect some goalpost-shifting here among the partisans of immediate withdrawal. Back in September, when Petraeus was testifying and the fur was flying, Matt was making roughly the same point that he and Julian and Brian Doherty are making now, except that he was saying things like "maybe Bush can change his line to the idea that if we just keep staying the course for 4 or 5 more years, casualties will drop massively because everyone will already be dead or displaced." Now it's less than two months later, the violence has continued to diminish, and Matt's response is: "After all, internecine violence in Iraq won't continue forever and since most ethnically mixed neighborhoods have already been cleansed, it's at least plausible that the worst is behind us." And he's right - it is at least plausible. But given that only six weeks ago he was throwing out "4 or 5 more years" as a timeline for when Iraq might start to settle down, I think it's also "at least plausible" that when we look back on the last year of American military operations in Iraq, we'll judge them to have played a major role in putting the worst behind us earlier than most people anticipated.

I'm not nearly as optimistic ("Iraqtimistic"?) on that count as this gentleman, mind you, but I'm hopeful.

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