Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iraq Debate

What strikes me about the current debate on Iraq is that nearly everyone who states a position seems to assume that there is one and only one policy that is right and practical while all the others would be disastrous. If they have reservations about their own ideas, they remain unspoken. Should we stay indefinitely until political stability and relative peace are achieved? Leave now? Announce a phased withdrawal? Set a date now for a total withdrawal? The truth is that no one knows the best course to follow, for no one knows what the consequences of each would be.

As best as I can tell the arguments for one policy are about as convincing as for any other given what we know and our inability to know what the future will bring. So pundits assume their own insight is impeccable, and politicians try to win points with public opinion and with voters in the coming elections.

We have a tiger by the tail, and it is not clear what we should do to remedy the situation. It was a mistake to go there in the first place, but we did, and now we have to deal with the mess we created the best way we can, and nobody know what that best or least bad way is.

I will grant that qualifying one's position by saying, "On the whole, by and large, generally speaking, taking everything into consideration, in my opinion my proposal is probably best given the uncertainties in the situation" does not make one look like a decisive leader, but it might be closer to what the situation requires. At least one's opponents would not feel obligated perhaps to state an alternative with a confidence and certainty that is foolhardy under the circumstances. The likelihood that debaters will begin noting the probable weaknesses in their policies and the strength of the alternatives is about as likely as Dick Cheney admitting that he has been wrong from the start.

I suppose stating a position and trying to refute all others without acknowledging the complexity, difficulty, ambiguity, and uncertainty in the situation is the way we do things these days. It is not a compliment to our democracy that such is the case.


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