ANOTHER BORING POST ABOUT IRAQ. After reading it, Al Gore's actual statement on Iraq strikes me as significantly more open-minded and conciliatory than Garance's gloss below or the one ABC News gave to it made it sound. By which I mean that, as a member of the anti-war base, I find Gore's take on this to be annoying and something I hope he'll change his mind about, while I've found, say, Hillary Clinton's comments to be more along the lines of infuriating.

At any rate, the question of substance remains. Stay the coursers say that if we leave, something bad would happen next. They're correct. Deadliners say that for however long we stay, bad things will happen during that duration, and then we'll leave at which point all the bad things stay the coursers worry about will happen anyway. We're also correct, and I think absolutely all the evidence from our 38 month-or-so occupation of Iraq backs us up. Go back twelve months ago and revisit the argument that was being had then. Stay the coursers had various dire and more-or-less accurate warnings about the possible consequences of withdrawal. Now ask yourself if anything in that regard has changed in the past twelve months. Have we accomplished anything at all worth accomplishing in that time period? To be sure, things have happened. Tens of billions of dollars have been spent, American troops have been killed, other American troops have perpetrated some massacres, Shiite militias have grown more adept at extrajudicial killings of Sunni Arabs, Sunni Arabs have killed lots of Shiite civilians, etc. But have we achieved anything? Are we closer or further from "full-blown civil war" or whatever it is that's supposed to distinguish the current situation from what might happen if we leave? Does anyone expect liberty to blossom in the desert at this point?

I think the answers to those questions are all pretty clear, and that's the essence of the case for leaving. Pointing out that there are problems with leaving doesn't do any argumentative work unless staying is accomplishing something worthwhile. Just sitting around for several further years burning cash and lives in the vague hope that if we wait long enough some miracle will transform the situation is just pointless cruelty to the men and women actually living the war, Iraqi and American alike.

--Matthew Yglesias

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