Our two choices in Iraq

I finally finished reading James Fallows’ long cover story in this month’s Atlantic. Unfortunately, if you don’t subscribe, you can’t read it, but let me give you the two-cent summary (or, alternately, you can read Brad DeLong’s extensive excerpts here).

Basically, we’ve done a lousy job training Iraq’s army, and so we can’t leave now without causing big trouble there. But turning around the training system there will require a massive new infusion of money, and a major, long-term commitment, including much longer tours of duty for individual soldiers (you see, when a soldier finally gets his bearings and begins to make some contact and headway with the Iraqi people, his one-year tour is over and he gets sent home and replaced with a newbie).

So we really have two choices: we can cut and run now, or we can spend hundreds of billions more dollars and possibly thousands more lives on the possibility that we might be able to improve our training system in the future. Fallows argues that cutting and running would be disastrous, because we’d end up with three states in Iraq, with the middle “Sunnistan” being the equivalent of Afghanistan before 9/11 — a terrorist training ground.

I say, that’s what we’re probably going to end up with anyway, because no one in America has the resolve to do the job right in Iraq. We might as well get out now.

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