Tom Ricks, Standing Firm on a Fallacy

Over at Foreignpolicy.com, the web site highlights this recent statement by Tom Ricks, one of its contributors and author of The Gamble: General Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq 2006-2008.

I think that invading Iraq preemptively on false premises, at the time that we already were at war elsewhere, was probably the biggest mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Everything we do in Iraq is the fruit of that poisoned tree. But I think also that there are no good answers in Iraq, just less bad ones. I think staying in Iraq is immoral, but I think leaving immediately would be even more so, because of the risk it runs of leaving Iraq to a civil war that could go regional.

There’s a lot of silliness and sloppy thinking in these four sentences. To begin with: arguably Iraq would rank among the bigger mistakes in the history of American foreign policy if we had lost the war. It’s worth adding, I suppose, that we would have if we had followed the council of such informed voices as…. Tom Ricks, who, I think it’s fair to surmise, opposed President Bush’s surge. In January 2007, for example, Ricks said this in an interview:

The problem here… is that two aspects have characterized the American approach in Iraq over the past three years.  One has been official over-optimism in which institutions fail to recognize the basic reality on the ground.  The second is a rush to failure with Iraqi forces.  I think the concern of a lot of people in the military right now — especially officers who have a tour or two in Iraq — is that the new plan combines both those flaws:  official optimism about what Iraqis are willing to do, and a rush to failure in pushing Iraqis too soon to do too much.

These concerns appear to be largely Ricks’s own. And even a year after the surge was announced and progress was undeniable, Ricks appeared on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” insisting that the “theory of the surge [improving security in order to promote political reconciliation] is now demonstrably false.” In fact, political reconciliation has taken place; the theory of the surge has been vindicated, not subverted.

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Tom Ricks, Standing Firm on a Fallacy

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