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The United Nations already maintains a mission in Iraq that would like to take on more tasks, Pollack says. Far more help could become available, he adds, if the United States plugged the U.N. into the chain of command.
And if the surge fails, leaving Iraq in chaos or civil war? Then the administration will need the help of many of those same United Nations and private-agency networks -- to administer humanitarian aid, shelter and resettle refugees, monitor borders, conduct mediation and local diplomacy, and so on. Either way, getting them into the field will take months from a standing start. Why not begin lining them up now? "I'd have started that six months ago," Pollack says.
President Bush might be right. Perhaps a successful surge will reconcile Americans to a long deployment in Iraq. Perhaps he can make Iraqis believe that Americans will bear any burden, pay any price for Iraqi freedom. Perhaps he can come up with the troops and materiel to sustain the operation indefinitely. Perhaps his party can campaign and win on a promise to sustain the operation indefinitely after Bush leaves office. Perhaps, therefore, preparing now for disengagement would amount to a premature admission of failure.
Or perhaps Bush is neglecting to make provisions for an inevitable and clearly foreseeable disengagement, courting chaos when the moment comes. Perhaps he has trouble distinguishing between accommodation and capitulation, between prudence and defeat. Perhaps he is shutting his eyes and muscling ahead. If so, it would not be the first time.
© Copyright 2007 National Journal
Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal and a frequent contributor to Reason. The article was originally published by National Journal.