Timothy Noah of Slate thinks he sees a neoconservative “crack up” over the question of whether more troops are needed in Iraq. Two articles in the current issue of the Weekly Standard (including one by William Kristol and Robert Kagan) argue that more troops are required, and criticize Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld for not recognizing that need. But another neoconservative, Midge Decter, admires Rumsfeld, while Max Boot reports from Iraq that we are slowly winning the war on the ground.
For such differences of opinion (if even they rise to that level) to constitute a “crack up,” one must assume that neoconservatism is some sort of cabal. If it is instead a “persuasion,” to use Irving Kristol’s word, then one would expect some disagreement about empirical questions such as how well Rumsfeld has done and how many troops are needed to finish the job. Noah’s piece tends to show that neoconservatism is not the sinister conspiracy he thinks it is, not that neoconservatism is cracking up.
Noah thinks we may need something in the neighborhood of 250,000 troops in Iraq (he seems to have derived that number by taking the most extravagent estimate he could find and cutting it in half). He argues that the most practical way to reach that number is to get help from other countries. He dismisses the notion that the U.N. won’t allow that to happen, arguing that they will allow it if only we cede control of the peacekeeping to the U.N. But how many additional troops could we muster by ceding such control? Noah doesn’t say; not vast numbers, I suspect. And what of the cost in terms of efficacy of having the U.N. run the show? Again, Noah doesn’t consider this matter. Given the U.N.’s track record, the cost could easily exceed the value of the extra troops.
HINDROCKET adds: Is there a lot of wishful thinking among liberals these days, or what? Some “crack-up”–we conservatives are firmly united in wanting the American effort to liberate Iraq to succeed and in wanting Iraq to serve as a model for other Arab states. How that can best be achieved; the precise number of troops that may or may not be needed; and what exactly the odds are on other Arab states following a successful Iraqi model are empirical matters on which no two opinions will be exactly alike. But to suggest that this implies some kind of “neoconservative” collapse is ridiculous.
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