Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Gradualist vs. confrontationalist

David Brooks is examining the debate between what he calls the gradualists and confrontationalists over U.S. tactics in Iraq.
The gradualists argue that it would be crazy to rush into terrorist-controlled cities and try to clean them out with massive force because the initial attack would be so bloody there'd be a debilitating political backlash.
...
The confrontationalists can't believe the Bush folks, of all people, are waging a sensitive war on terror. By moving so slowly, the U.S. is allowing terror armies to thrive and grow. With U.S. acquiescence, fascists are allowed to preen, terrorize and entrench themselves.
Indeed, I believe Kerry could do the most damage to Bush on Iraq by attacking from the right, given the fact that "The gradualists clearly have the upper hand within the Bush administration," as Brooks says.

Given our position in Iraq as unpopular foreign soldiers, we should prefer the gradualist approach to the confrontationalist approach, but often there is no gradualist approach available. Look at our withdrawal from Fallujah last spring. The Fallujah Brigade, though only officially disbanded in August, was a farce from day one. It was the dishrag of a scantily clad retreat. (Obviously the relevant decision makers did not realize this at the time.) Our withdrawal was gradualist, in the sense of being a gradual movement towards defeat. After we rightly vowed to punish those who killed those contractors in April, our enemies put up more of a fight than we expected, and then we got scared. We starting grasping for gradualist straws, and we latched onto thorns. Gradualism finessed us out of a very sticky situation in Najaf, but when not applied carefully, the gradualist mindset has gotten us played for fools.

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