Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Need Criteria for Success

The buzz is about Bush’s speech last night. There is nothing Bush could say at this point that could satisfy his detractors. Confessing that invading Iraq was terrible mistake, even if he thought this were true, would serve only to fuel the rage of true enemies, outrage weak allies, and embarrass strong ones. But Bush continues to dig holes for himself as he continues to make excuses for why we are there. That is the problem with the Iraq debate. It is less about the future and more about the past.

For the record, I think we should have focused on Afghanistan and stayed out of Iraq. Afghanistan was indisputably a terrorist regime, not only a safe haven for terrorists but a breading and training ground for them. If we had gone in, defeated the Taliban, and put forth our best and fullest efforts to build a secure and functional democracy in a once fundamentalist nation, the sympathy shown to us after September 11 might not have dwindled into bitterness. The world was with us on Afghanistan. The case for Iraq was much less clear. I don’t think Bush lied. I just think the administration was high on their success in Afghanistan and bit off more than they could chew. They were so convinced that they would be greeted as liberators that they didn’t think of what might happen after the initial euphoria of victory wore off and they were suddenly in charge of rebuilding two countries vastly different from their own. (I’m not going to get anymore into specifics about why I disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq because that’s not the point of this post. And I'm not that masochistic.)

But that doesn’t matter now. We’re in. Memos and evidence of WMDs and whatnot are good only for historians at this point. Whatever their intentions, however much or little they thought about post-war problems, we’re in. And we have to think about what comes next.

I don’t want a schedule. That would be artificial, not to mention a signal to insurgents of how long they have to wait before the country is theirs for the taking. But we need criteria for success. Number of Iraqi soldiers and police ready to defend Iraq. Percentage of Iraqi children attending school. Reliability of the power grid. Deaths per month. Days since last bombing. Some of the above. All of the above. More than just the above. But something. We need to define what success is before we can know if we’ve succeeded. Bush says we’ll be there as long as it takes. A secure, democratic nation is a great goal, but how do you measure that? Bush is so fond of accountability in public schools with tests and statistics to judge whether or not a school is doing its job. How about some tests and statistics here so we’ll know when we’re close to success?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Walt said...

This might be the most reasonable post I've ever seen on the topic.

6/30/2005 5:11 PM  

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