On Tim Russert”s show yersterday, two Washington Post veterans, Dana Priest and Robin Wright, presented their preferred approach to coping with the insurgency in Iraq. Under this approach, the soon-to-be new Iraqi government would go to the U.N., present itself as the elected representatives of the nation of Iraq, and ask for U.N. assistance in maintaining order. At the same time, the U.S. would agree to let the U.N. take over and would play only whatever small role in the defense of Iraq the U.N. deemed appropriate. With the U.S. out of the way, the insurgents would lose their status as a heroic resistance and the situation might materially improve. Priest and Wright call this approach “realist,” on the grounds that it has been mooted by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, who belong to the realist school of foreign policy.
Labels aside, it’s difficult to imagine a less realistc policy. Priest and Wright acknowledged only one difficulty — the U.S. might not agree to step aside because doing so would go against everything President Bush has stood for. They should have added that the U.N. will never agree to replace us because doing so would violate what it stands for. Indeed, the U.N. pulled out of Iraq the minute that violence was directed against its personnel. This suggests the third fatal flaw in the realism of Priest and Wright — the Iraqis would have to be crazy to prefer having their security protected by the U.N. rather than the U.S.
Fortunately for the Post’s credibility, the paper had a third representative on Russert’s show. Thomas Ricks respectfully expressed skepticism about the Priest-Wright solution, declining, I imagine, to say what he really thought. Even so, I find it astonishing that a serious newspaper provides a forum to individuals as oblivious to reality as Priest and Wright.
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