The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The Joys of Tech Central Station, Part XXIV

July 12, 2005

Can someone give me a good reason why Michael Totten’s latest essay is any better than his first published piece? Because, for the life of me, I can’t understand what the point of the thing is.

Totten argues that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon is a good precedent for a future US withdrawal from Iraq. The reason? It undermined Hezbollah and has led to a general improvement in Israel’s strategic position in Lebanon. Putting aside whether that is true, I simply don’t understand how:

1. Anyone can claim that the cases are remotely comparable;

2. Anyone can write an entire article on the putative benefits of the Israeli pullout without addressing the possible role of the withdrawal in fueling the Second Intifadia.

And then there is, of course, the key conditional in the essay:

The propaganda victory for both the Sunni Arab insurgents and the terrorists from outside the country could turn into a pyrrhic one. There is such a thing, after all, as a tactical retreat. It could work to our advantage if we don’t do it prematurely, if the Iraqi government really is strong enough to mop this up on its own.

Because, you know, there are all those people out there who say a US pullout would be a really bad thing even if the Iraqi government could defeat the insurgency on its own.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.