BAD AND WORSE….Laura Rozen reports today that the Bush national security team met over the Veterans Day weekend to discuss options for Iraq. National security advisor Stephen Hadley apparently set the agenda for the meeting:
Numerous policy options were put forward at the meeting, which revolved around a strategy paper prepared by Hadley and drawn from his recent trip to Baghdad. One was the Shiite option. Participants were asked to consider whether the U.S. could really afford to keep fighting both the Sunni insurgency and Shiite militias ? or whether it should instead focus its efforts on combating the Sunni insurgency exclusively, and even help empower the Shiites against the Sunnis.
….So what’s the logic behind the idea of “unleashing the Shiites”? It’s the path of least resistance, according to its supporters, and it could help accelerate one side actually winning Iraq’s sectarian conflict, thereby shortening the conflict, while reducing some of the critical security concerns driving Shiites to mobilize their own militias in the first place.
Would this be an appalling strategy to follow? Of course it would. Appalling options are all that’s left to us in Iraq.
More to the point: is it worse than the other options at our disposal? Or, alternatively, is it slightly less bad? I’d guess the former: There’s not much question that Shiite forces are eventually going to wipe out the Sunni insurgency, but it’s probably slightly better for them to do it on their own instead of doing it with our active help, something that would alienate every Sunni in the Middle East. And don’t think that we might be able to keep this a secret. Even if our support for this strategy were never publicly acknowledged, there’s not much question that everyone in the region would understand perfectly well what was going on.
Such is the moral calculus we’re left with in Iraq. It’s not a battle between good and bad, it’s a battle between bad and worse.