June 30, 2004

BEATS ME: Reader Michael Greenspan emails:

What I find most interesting about the column by John Keegan is its contrast with Michael Rubin’s piece on NRO a few days ago. Keegan writes that “the American occupiers should not have dissolved the Iraqi army or police or civil administration, whatever the number of Ba’ath Party members they contain.” Rubin writes that “[t]he failure of the Fallujah experiment undercuts the conventional wisdom that Bremer erred with his decision to dissolve the Iraqi military.” I’ve long felt vaguely that I should have an opinion on this sort of issue, but I don’t. Plain disagreement between two smart, experienced supporters reassures me that I’m right to keep out of it. If an expert can be undeniably wrong — and either Rubin or Keegan must be — how can I possibly know what should be done?

Yes. It’s hard to know about that sort of thing — especially when, as we’ve seen, the information that we get out of Iraq is fragmentary and often unreliable. In this regard, William Safire’s column on the dangers of certitude is well worth reading. We can be certain about principles; about tactics, and even strategies, we have to make our best guess.