Changing Course in Iraq

CHANGING COURSE IN IRAQ….I’m sorry, but this is just wrong. In the New York Times today, Nathaniel Fick, a former Marine captain, writes that although we can’t afford to merely “stay the course” in Iraq, neither can we afford to precipitously pull out. Rather, we need another strategy:

The particulars of whatever strategy we decide to go with are, at this point, secondary. First, commitment to change must be made, and quickly.

This is absurd. As Fick himself observes, “history offers countless cautionary examples” regarding counterinsurgency, a statement that, if anything, understates the case. In fact, most large scale foreign counterinsurgencies have been miserable failures, which means that change merely for the sake of change is far more likely to fail than to succeed. Grabbing frantically at the first thing that sounds remotely reasonable, as Frick seems to do with Andrew Krepinevich’s flawed but media-friendly plan, is a recipe for disaster.

Frick suggests that “There’s no shortage of good alternatives waiting in the wings.” Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is true, and that’s the problem that needs to be addressed. Give us a good plan first, and then we can talk about change.