New Old Plans

Laura Rozen reports that figures inside the administration are considering a quasi-new approach to Iraq tilt toward the Shiite side of the burgeoning civil war and help them crush their adversaries. Let me merely point out that our occupation of Iraq has now gone on for so long that this, like essentially every other idea, has already had its moment in the sun. After the heady days of the Early Bremer period, we attempted a Sunni Placation Strategy during Iyad Allawi's administration. Then, at some point during the Ibrahim Jafari Era the decision was made that we needed to be backing the forces of "democracy" in Iraq (i.e., the Shiites) against their adversaries. We eventually wound up backtracking on that, and have spent much of Nouri al-Maliki's administration attempting a return to the Sunni Placation Strategy, complete with the resumption of on-again, off-again warfare against Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers.

And so, sure, why not tilt back again? Then again, why not leave? Alternatively, here's The New Republic's take:

This magazine has long advocated deploying U.S. power to halt the mass slaughter of innocents. Saddam Hussein distinguished himself at the mass slaughter of innocents: About this, there can be no dispute. Yet, in this case, we supported an invasion that has led to the same savage result. Without an occupying power--and, perhaps, with one--Iraq could soon witness refugee crises, the sectarian mêlée spilling into neighboring countries, Al Qaeda bases sprouting across the Sunni Triangle, and massacres still greater than those that have already transpired. . . .

While the administration's defenders claim that it has exhausted diplomatic possibilities, this is true only in the sense that it has conducted grudging and occasional conversations with important regional players. But diplomacy is not just a cozy exercise in endless speech acts. It, too, must be brutal: It must include threats and promises, alliances and coalitions--with the threat of being left out. A new campaign should lay the groundwork for agreements prior to the calling of a peace conference that would include Iraq's parties and its neighbors, as well as the United States, the European Union, and Russia. What kind of agreement could be worked out? Separate states, a loose federation, a unified government? That's not clear--and won't be until the parties involved make their wishes known and negotiations begin.

Smells like . . . Wieseltier. Seriously -- why say "mêlée" when "fighting" works? Why misuse the concept of speech acts? Threaten whom? Threaten to do what?