Roger L. Simon

Everybody thinks they know

David Corn calls out Rich Lowry this morning for not calling out William F. Buckley (who has recently declared the Iraq War a loss). I agree with David on this one, but I can’t see how anyone – Buckley, Corn, Lowry, you or me – can make a final assessment of the Iraq situation right now. Not even close. I once wrote about “the politics of the last five minutes.” With respect to Iraq we have now devolved into the politics of the last thirty seconds.

Take the recent bombing of the mosque in Samarra. This was supposed to have started a civil war. As of this precise second, it seems that it hasn’t. In fact, it may have done precisely the opposite, waking up Sunni and Shiite factions and forcing them finally to deal with each other. But do I know that? And will it last? Anyone who thinks they know the answer to that is a pretentious twit, jockeying for a position in the punditocracy or playing a not-so-subtle game of CYA. For me, in situations like this, it’s always worth reviewing that famous quotation from William Morris (not the agent):

Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes out not to be what they meant, other men have to fight for what they meant under another name.”

BTW, yesterday, according to reports, twenty-nine died in violence in Iraq. That’s ten fewer than died in traffic accidents in California last Thanksgiving Weekend. Does that mean things are good in Iraq? Of course not. But it does add a little perspective, just as does the knowledge that an estimated 620,000 American soldiers died in our Civil War.