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June 14, 2006

Me: The One the Only?

I'm surprised that nobody with NRO Corner posting access has challenged this assertion from John Derbyshire:

No American thought, in 2003, that 3+ years of major campaigning in Iraq, with 130,000+ troops continutously engaged, and a running total of 2,500 deaths after that 3+ years, was in our future. No American thought that. I am not speaking of the War on Terror—Rick Brookhiser was already telling me at about that time that he expected the WoT to go on for the rest of his lifetime. I'm talking about engagement in Iraq.

Perhaps "no American" specifically made such a prediction, but I'm sure a great many joined me, at the time, in thinking that routing a dictatorship, investigating and following the threads of a weapons program, squashing coddled local terrorists, and forming the country into a functional democracy would take more time to accomplish than, say, a bachelor's degree in political science. Had somebody asked me, back when the first bombs were dropped, whether 2006 would have brought "3+ years of major campaigning in Iraq, with 130,000+ troops continutously engaged, and a running total of 2,500 deaths after that 3+ years," I'd have replied that, in 2006, we'd be better able to tell whether such a litany had been necessary to accomplish our goals.

Perhaps in a world of weekly columns and churned-out books, 3+ years seems sufficient for circumstances to cycle several times over, but things appear to move at a much more gradual pace in the working world that I inhabit. For my carpentry job, I've been in the very same mansion's basement for 9+ months, now, and we're still not done with the renovations. I wouldn't venture to suggest how many times that duration it ought to take to renovate a country — ensuring that terrorists and dictators, rather than squeaks and rot, do not return rapidly — but anybody who is truly surprised that we're still plugging away at it a few years on isn't somebody I trust to offer opinions with any substantial perspective.

Posted by Justin Katz at June 14, 2006 8:43 PM
Middle East

Heck, if anybody had told me back in 2003 (before we got started in Iraq) that our forces would only have about 2500 casualties after 3 years, I'd have said, "Yeah right, who are you kidding?" I know the comparison to Viet Nam is trite, but this operation hasn't got anything on Viet Nam when it comes to casualty rates. I'd venture to say that Derbyshire is sunk deep into the instant gratification cultural norms.

Posted by: smmtheory at June 15, 2006 9:55 AM

I had a similar thought, Smmtheory, although you put it much better. I've observed generally, but especially with the war in Iraq, a sort of fanatical relief when people find an excuse to switch to the opinion that our culture proclaims that all good people should have — even among the grumps.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 15, 2006 5:49 PM

What's weird about it is that there seems to be a sort of selective expectation of instant gratification though. When it came to things like Saddam's compliance with U.N. resolutions to disarm some people were willing to wait and wait and wait and wait...

Posted by: smmtheory at June 15, 2006 9:29 PM

Noah Millman offered a similar conclusion over at The American Scene. I can't figure out how people as smart and well-read as Millman, Derb, Buckley, George Will, etc. can have such narrow and parochial outlooks on Iraq. Even if one thought that it wasn't a good idea to invade, by any standard one cares to use the situation in Iraq is remarkably good. That doesn't mean that we haven't made a lot of major mistakes, but, again, what war doesn't have those? And why are people so certain that things are lost? I just don't get what data they are basing these decisions on.

Posted by: Mike S. at June 16, 2006 9:11 PM

Hey, Mike S., are you the same Mike S. that posts over on Tom's site (Thinking Christian)?

Posted by: Deuce at June 19, 2006 12:01 PM

Yup. I used get my blog commenting/arguing fix over here at DITL, until Justin took his hiatus. I then migrated to TC. Don't know what I'll do if Justin picks things back up! ;) (Actually, I'll probably just have to stop doing the commenting thing, as work is keeping me busier...)

Posted by: Mike S. at June 21, 2006 5:25 PM