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September 28, 2007

Cochran on Iraq

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Those who enjoyed wrestling with our recent two-part interview with Gregory Cochran about the U.S.'s mideast adventures (here and here) won't want to miss Cochran's cover story in the current American Conservative about how we should leave Iraq. (Answer: Quickly.) It's as bold and smart as you could want a piece to be. History prof. Paul Schroeder's accompanying essay offers a lot of perspective. Nice passage from Schroeder: "The war never went wrong; it always was wrong, in specific, basic ways." Gary "War Nerd" Brecher does a pretty funny demolition job on a new biography of Dick Cheney.



posted by Michael at September 28, 2007


While the Cochran article makes a compelling case for a "quick" out, he's also points out how politically difficult it would be.

What would it say, after four years of abandoned plans and constant, dreary calls for "patience" and "sacrifice," if the military actually left in four weeks? It would mean that we always could have left that easily, and the politician who spoke of long-term commitments were essentially con-artists -- as if we just left WWII in the middle of the fighting and the Nazis just quietly disappeared like a bad dream.

I can't imagine the political class that got us into the mess ever accepting that scenario. God help us, they'll take a good, long, "responsible" time getting out, causing needless death along the way.

We entered Iraq flushed with delusional pride. The way we leave will reflect that.



Posted by: The Mechanical Eye on September 28, 2007 1:32 PM

Gary Brecher's review is pretty funny, in a black humor sort of way, of course. Of course, there's so little humorous about this war that I suppose he doesn't have much competition...

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 28, 2007 1:53 PM

I wouldn't call Cochran's piece particularly bold or smart. Yglesias, Drum, Marshall and other liberal pundits have been saying the same thing for years. Get out fast -- anything else is a slow motion bleed. Bottom line: Iraq is going to turn into a theocracy aligned with Iran. There will be purges and ethnic cleansing, and short of an occupying force of 300,000+ (i.e., a draft) there's not a damn thing we can do about it. It's all about politicians and the military in this country facing up to that fact.

Posted by: Steve on September 28, 2007 2:15 PM


I still cannot understand why you’re so enamored of Mr. Cochran. He makes the same observations that generalists have previously made, belaboring the obvious, and acts as if he’s the first person to have thought them up.

“Finally, we’re hearing concrete talk about withdrawal from Iraq.”

Where has Cochran been for the last several years? It was obvious to many people who were clear-headed enough to oppose the war before we invaded that the game was over after the Sunni insurgency arose not long after Mission Accomplished was trumpeted in 2003. Talk about withdrawal began then. As for Cochran’s estimates of the logistics of withdrawal, I think that this is one time when competent military logistics experts probably have it over an armchair general with a degree in physics. Yes, military men are sometimes wrong about estimating outcomes, but on balance, I think they have a wee bit more experience in this subject than does Mr. Cochran.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on September 28, 2007 10:01 PM

The talk was vapor until the public turned against the war, and it didn't become particularly concrete until the Republicans lost control of Congress houses. Now it has.

The Administration, back in July, started telling reporters that it would take more than a year to leave if we decided to do so. More than a year, when we managed to invade in three weeks. They expressed fear that we'd have a difficult time fighting our way out.

All those statements were false, and many people were ignorant enough to believe them.

People like _you_, Winkler.

Posted by: gcochran on September 29, 2007 2:20 AM

Steve says: Yglesias, Drum, Marshall and other liberal pundits have been saying the same thing for years.

Amusingly, Yglesias and Drum were pro-war, while Marshall changed his mind at the very last moment (after talking up Pollack's book). Now, they're not wrong about the situation today - but that's not as impressive as being truly _prescient_.

Posted by: tc on September 29, 2007 2:20 AM

Cochran still hasn't said a single thing about the Islamic threat from within, via Muslim immigration, high birthrates, and political activism.

Posted by: PA on September 29, 2007 10:25 AM

Mr. Cochran wrote:

" All those statements were false, and many people were ignorant enough to believe them.

People like _you_, Winkler."

Gee, now how exactly do you know that, Mr. Cochran? How do you know what I believe or believed at any one time? The answer is that you don't, and you're so vain and touchy that when what you feel are your singular, genius level insights' originality are questioned, you resort to silly personal insults.

For the record, I was against the invasion of Iraq and consistently critical of the administration thereafter, not credulous. Go read the archives of my blog, then apologize to me.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on September 29, 2007 4:32 PM

On November 17, 2005. Rep. John Murtha: “"It's time to bring the troops home," he said, noting that a withdrawal would take about six months to complete.”

And that was the moment when discussion of withdrawal broke out from the confines of the left and into the mainstream of political and public discussion, a year before the 2006 election.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on September 29, 2007 5:00 PM

Tell me the magical reason that you can't turn around and drive out as fast as you drove in - if you really want to leave. I'm curious - what is it?
One-way streets?

Posted by: gcochran on September 29, 2007 8:59 PM

Who are you asking? Me? It's my understanding that there's one highway from the airport, which is constantly under attack as it is. Once the insurgents' local intelligence tells them we're bugging out, they may make a concerted effort to block the requisite pathways and then inflict as many casualties as possible. It only takes a few burning vehicles to block a convoy for some time.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on September 29, 2007 11:11 PM

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