Dagger in hand

A man of prodigious fortune, coming to add his opinion to some light discussion that was going on casually at his table, began precisely thus: "It can only be a liar or an ignoramus who will say otherwise than," and so on. Pursue that philosophical point, dagger in hand.

--Michel de Montaigne, Of the art of discussion.

Stab back: cmnewman99-at-yahoo.com


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Wednesday, May 28, 2003
Principles for Iraq: I for one was willing to cut the administration some slack for not having a detailed plan as to how Iraq was going to get running again, because I don't think such a plan is really possible if we're serious about giving the Iraqi people autonomy. But I was frustrated that we hadn't seen a clear statement of principles telling the Iraqis and the world what they could expect from us and what we expected of them. That should have been the first speech Bush made after the regime fell. Instead we had to wait till now. Notice how Rummy's first two bullet points, Assert Authority and Provide Security, represent a tacit admission that we've been rather remiss up to now. In an email exchange with Mr. Tough Guy I was recently arguing that even if we were ultimately going to have to take on that responsibility, it made tactical sense for us to err initially on the side of under rather than overdeployment. Because in the former scenario, you wind up with the Iraqis and the rest of the world demanding that you send in more troops to keep order, which strengthens and legitimates your hand when you do so. Whereas if you go in immediately and clamp down on everything, you're nothing but an evil occupier whose contributions to civil order go unnoticed because no-one has ever tasted life without you, but whose every misstep in trying to keep order is touted as oppressive and tyrannical. Does it make sense to attribute this kind of calculation to the Bushies? Tough Guy says no, the Bushies just don't like nationbuilding and therefore screwed it up with colossal negligence. He may be right. Certainly, the little mini regime change we just saw from Garner to Bremer suggests that Rummy's current first principles are the product of experience rather than foresight. Oxblog's David Adesnik made a similar point, asserting that no-one in their right mind should believe that "the Bush administration wanted there to be just enough chaos in Iraq to ensure that everyone would demand a stronger American hand in Baghdad rather than an immediate withdrawal." Funny, what I had theorized as a possible justification for the Bushies' apparent blunder, he regards as a conspiracy theory against them.

But my favorite one of Rummy's bullets is this:
• Contracts--promoting Iraq's recovery. Whenever possible, contracts for work in Iraq will go to those who will use Iraqi workers and to countries that supported the Iraqi people's liberation so as to contribute to greater regional economic activity and to accelerate Iraq's and the region's economic recovery.

Anyone else catch the glaring non sequitur? Well, maybe it isn't really one. Given the economic conditions these days in those countries that didn't "support[] the Iraqi people's liberation," maybe steering contracts elsewhere actually is more conducive to economic recovery. Maybe it will actually serve to bring the Iraqi people into contact with businessmen who have healthier ideas about the way to run an economy.

Alright, it's a stretch. But you know, I don't feel all that inclined to demand much in the way of justification for this particular policy.

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