... 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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