Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Redefining success

I found a couple of interesting takes on how we've begun defining success in Iraq: anything short of disaster.

Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune writes:

There is good news in Iraq: The chaos of recent days has not led to all-out civil war. At least not yet.

Never mind that one of the major Shiite religious shrines was blown up Feb. 22. Never mind that about 500 Iraqis have died in the ensuing frenzy of sectarian violence. Never mind that if this is not civil war, it's not very far from it. In Iraq, the Bush administration has learned to set the bar low: Avoiding the worst possible outcome now passes for success.

For nearly three years, Americans have been told that we are making progress in bringing stability and democratic government to Iraq. But that state of affairs, like the horizon, keeps receding as we approach. Lately, the carnage has been waxing, not waning. Last month, for example, Iraq suffered 39 "multiple fatality bombings." The previous February, there were 18.

But the administration feigns nonchalance about events that once would have been considered disastrous.

Some of that is human nature: as events occur, you reevaluate your objectives to account for the new reality. But only the most self-deluded continue to call a venture a "success" once you start doing that. So it's instructive to see how low the bar has fallen in the last three years.

WesPac -- Wesley Clark's political action committee -- had a similar but broader take back in December:

This President is unrivaled at using worst case scenarios to make himself look good. Here we are, three years after America invaded Iraq, and almost no Iraqis got slaughtered on their way to the polls. We have George Bush to thank for that.

(snip)

So what about Iraq? Almost everything that could possibly go wrong with our invasion of Iraq has gone wrong already. Almost yes, but not quite, which leaves George Bush plenty to still take credit for. Al Quada, essentially non-existent inside Iraq before our invasion, hasn't fully secured a theocratic terrorist free state within it's borders yet. Guess who takes credit for that?

To listen to George Bush is to enter an alternate universe in which everything that's failed so far is inconsequential, while any disaster not yet upon us is a tribute to his leadership, and a result of his steely resolve. The costs America pays for his misguided policies are always well worth it, because Bush doesn't calculate those costs against how little if anything America actually gains, he measures them against how much more we stand to lose in a worst case scenario, one that allegedly can only be averted through Bush's continuing leadership.

I'd never really thought about it in precisely those terms, but they have a point.

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