Friday, July 01, 2005

Pollack and Krugman on Iraq

In an interesting pair of op-ed pieces, Kenneth Pollack and Paul Krugman take significantly different positions, each of which has its own internal logic. Pollack says
A main point of counterinsurgency operations is that ensuring the safety of the people and giving them an economic and political incentive to oppose the insurgency is more important than fighting the insurgents themselves. Insurgencies wither on the vine without popular support. Thus the first big change would be to de-emphasize chasing insurgents around the Sunni Triangle, and to instead put a higher priority on protecting Iraqis as they go about their daily lives.

Many Iraqis will tell you that they are less concerned about terrorist attacks than about street crime and the burgeoning organized crime syndicates, which scare them into staying home and hinder the distribution of goods, paralyzing Iraq's economic and social life.
Pollack goes on to acknowledge that to be successful will require significantly more troops than we now have in Iraq. But if we provide the resources, Iraq can be won.

Krugman says that we should set a timetable for withdrawal. He says that
if the Iraqi government knew that our support had an expiration date, it would both look to its own defenses and, more important, try harder to find a political solution to the insurgency.

The Iraq that emerges once U.S. forces are gone won't bear much resemblance to the free-market, pro-American, Israel-friendly democracy the neocons promised. But it will pose less of a terrorist threat than the Iraq we have now.

Remember, Iraq wasn't a breeding ground for terrorists before we went there. All indications are that the foreign terrorists now infesting Iraq are there on the sufferance of a homegrown insurgency that finds them useful for the moment but that, brutal as it is, isn't interested in an apocalyptic confrontation with the Western world. Once we're no longer targets, the foreign terrorists won't be welcome.
Both Krugman (PK) and Pollack (KP) make a good case. They may both be right. The fear with Krugman's plan is that we are giving up control and will have little to say about the Iraq that emerges. The fear with Pollack's plan is that it may not work and we may be stuck trying to make it work indefinitely. With Pollack's plan we remain engaged and have some basic control over what happens in Iraq. But that control may be costly. With Krugman's plan we are disengaging and hoping that things will turn out ok. Befroe either Krugman or Pollack gain the support of a significant majority of Americans they will have to clarify the worst case scenarios of their respective plans and tell us what we would do in those situations.

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