THE PAUL AND...

THE PAUL AND TOM SHOW. Good day on the New York Times op-ed page today, where Krugman and Friedman make two of the more important, and overlooked, arguments for this juncture of the war debate.

First up is Big Paul, explaining that, both in Greek mythology and the Iraq War, Cassandra was right. And so he offers up an honor roll of prominent and marginalized politicians who presciently opposed war from the start -- and paid a political price for doing so. Now, however, most agree that their foresight would've saved us from a disastrous, murderous conflict whose legacy will be measured in body counts and deficits. Nevertheless, not one of these pundits or politicians has become an honored voice in the national debate, not one of them is sought after to apply the analytical chops that could've stopped this to the conflict's current trajectory. As Feingold argued the other day, the Baker-Hamilton Commission was a "who's who: of hawks and establishmentarians -- it was not a roll call of those who got it right. Props to Krugman for offering one, and here's hoping the left begins a concerted effort to elevate such voices in the debate.

It's a bit rarer for me to shower unvarnished praise on Friedman, but he deserves it today. In the Iraq debate, public opinion has led elite consensus, sensing our failure and the need for withdrawal far before any Wise Men O' Washington saw the same. For that reason, we skipped a step: The debate became withdrawal "when" rather than withdrawal "why." That's allowed folks like McCain and Lieberman and Packer and TNR to merely wring their hands over the horrors of such a plan while proposing flimsy -- or no -- alternatives. Without having to actually argue again the logic of withdrawal, they can simply fret over the dangers of it.

But as Friedman argues, withdrawal is now the best hope for Iraq. It is the only option that offers us leverage, the only option that requires Syria and Iran to intervene against catastrophe (rather than against us), the only option that eliminates an enemy and target from the Iraqi landscape. Friedman has become justly famous for the Friedman Unit -- a 6-month, endlessly renewable time period that will prove critical for Iraq. But he should now also be given credit for Friedman's Choice, which states that "our real choices in Iraq are 10 months or 10 years. Either we commit the resources to entirely rebuild the place over a decade, for which there is little support, or we tell everyone that we will be out within 10 months, or sooner, and we�ll deal with the consequences from afar. We need to start the timer � today, now." And those who want to argue with withdrawal should have to explain to the American people why a 10 year continuation of troop deployments, American deaths, and current trends is a good idea.

--Ezra Klein

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