Didn't Iran blink?

A mostly political Weblog.
April 8 2007 6:20 AM

Didn't Iran Blink?

Seeing "humiliation" in muddled success.

(Continued from Page 14)

P.S.: Regarding the surge, Omar of ITM's latest report from Baghdad seems almost implausibly hopeful:

You look around in Baghdad now and see hundreds of men working in the streets to pick up garbage; to plant flowers and paint the blast walls in joyful colors. Many of Baghdad's squares are becoming green and clean. The picture isn't perfect, but it's a clear attempt to beat violence and ease pain through giving the spring a chance to shine.

Nights in Baghdad now are far from quiet, but the sounds cause less anxiety for me than they did before. I recognize the rumble of armor and thump of guns and they assure me that the gangs and militias do not dominate the night as they once did.

More surprisingly, Simon Jenkins, a persistent war critic writing on HuffPo, also says of the surge:

The "surge" programme initiated last month by General Petraeus in Baghdad is the first intelligent thing the Americans have done in four years. By swamping neighbourhoods, monitoring entry, patrolling streets and giving personal protection to residents and tradesmen troops are able to restore some order to portions of the city. Petraeus is replacing vigilantes, militias and corrupt police with his own soldiers. He cannot reverse the ethnic cleansing that is fast partitioning Baghdad into Sunni and Shia quarters, but he can stabilise what has occurred. He can fortify the ghettos.

Jenkins thinks the "surge" comes "too late." But then he sketches a scenario as implausibly rosy as Omar's:

Economies recover, the more quickly the sooner they are left in peace. The hoodlums and gangsters now rich on American aid will harness the oil exports and eventually find a vested interest in protecting infrastructure and utilities. Religious segregation will enable the ghettos to feel more secure. Business will emerge from the bottom up and doctors, teachers and merchants start to move back from Amman and Damascus, once they hear that their old homes are safe and the Mahdists and Badrists are confined to barracks. Economic activity will return to the streets, as it has done to Beirut.

Advertisement

Jenkins claims all these good things will happen when U.S. troops leave--like many on the anti-surge left he has an almost Rumsfeldian faith in the ability of order to spontaneously generate in a power vacuum.  But it's hard to reconcile his declaration that U.S. troops "brutalise all they touch" and can't possibly "ensure that 'things get better'" with his earlier recognition that the "surge" is ... making things better. Why can't the surge bring temporary stability that allows "parlays between local commanders, sheikhs and religious leaders, neighbourhood alliances, deals and treaties"? Don't we want to strengthen the hand of relatively tolerant leaders and weaken the bargaining position of the killers? How is Petraeus hurting the situation?

One can imagine reasons: By naively moving Sunni families back into vulnerable mixed neighborhoods we may be setting the stage for more bloody sectarian cleansing in the future. More implausibly, maybe any deals can only be struck in conditions of radical insecurity, when the deal is the only thing that will stop ongoing slaughter (though you'd think if that were the case they would have been struck by now, no?).

Jenkins doesn't make these arguments--he just falls back on the HuffPo dogma thatU.S. troops are the problem (a "humilation and a provocation"). He seems lost somewhere between the Old Brownback and the New Brownback. ...

Update: Answering a query from Huffington, Jenkins says the problem with Petraeus' surge is "he will leave. And then what?" Wait. I thought the problem, according to Jenkins, was that U.S. troops weren't leaving. Now I'm all confused. ... Leave. Don't leave. What's the HuffPo party line again? ...

More: With Bob Wright's help, I try to figure out an argument that might support Jenkins here. (Short version: Groups won't cut deals when they are uncertain of their military position--i.e. it's weakness. They'll never be certain until the U.S. withdraws and fighting starts. Better version: In anarchic conditions, groups won't cut deals until their more rejectionist and violent member are willing to cut deals. By tacitly threatening more negotiation-prone leaders, these violent holdouts exercise effective veto power. And they won't agree to cut deals until they are certain of their position's weakness, which they won't be until the U.S. withdraws.) ... I don't think I agree with this argument--when fighting starts, isn't the result likely to be a lot more fighting, not a Sunni-Shiite deal? But it seems plausible. ... 1:47 P.M. link

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.