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.
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
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sullivan Re-unhinging Watch: In January, President Bush announced the 'surge' of "more than 20,000 additional" troops. One main worry at the time, voiced by critics including Andrew Sullivan, was that the troop increase wasn't enough. General Petraeus assured skeptics that if he thought he needed more troops, he'd ask for them. Now he's asked for them--an additional brigade--bringing the total "surge" to near 30,000. Andrew Sullivan's reaction: "Another Bush Lie." ... (via Elia) 3:57 P.M.
Wherein lies the greatness of Sen. Fred Thompson? Just asking!All I remember is he was given custody of an important set of hearings--into China and campaign finance--and screwed them up. ... He sounds good--in his John Fund interview he says lots of sensible things (especially about civil service protections). But ideally a presidential candidate has accomplished something--even if it's only governing a state without steering it conspicuously into disaster. Obama hasn't accomplished much, but he's only been in the Senate for two years. Thompson didn't accomplish much in two years plus a full six-year term, no?. ... I'd love to be wrong on this. Please tell me why. ... P.S.: He's a bad actor! I never believe he's the character he's playing (even when the character is essentially Fred Thompson). ... P.P.S.: "Ronald Reagan wasn't Laurence Olivier either." But he was better than Thompson! He met the threshhold test of believability. Anyway, Thompson's acting chops aren't the issue. That was a snarky aside. The problem is ... well, Reagan had governed California for two terms. Giuliani saved New York City. McCain has championed a lot of legislation and passed some of it. What's Thompson done? ... 1:53 P.M. link