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Just a Little Patience, MMMMMM Yeah

Via Patrick Appel at Andrew Sullivan’s place, defense theorist Thomas P.M. Barnett, or perhaps his colleague Sean Meade (it’s unclear who wrote this, exactly) has some kind-but-critical things to say about the Bush administration’s “strategic patience”:

By sticking it out long enough, despite the high casualties, we simply waited long enough to take advantage of the Salafi jihadists’ natural tendency to go overboard with the locals. Abu Musab Zarqawi’s impatience to turn Iraq into al Qaeda’s global cause celeb led to brutality that eventually alienated Iraq’s Sunni tribes, yielding the “Anbar awakening” that signaled the beginning of General Petraeus’ somewhat successful rollback (or is it buyback?) of al Qaeda’s presence there.

The whole essay is worth reading — it’s rather subtle and thoughtful — but it’s unclear whether the author thinks this is actually exculpatory. Rather than demonstrate the virtue of “sticking it out long enough,” Bush could have, I don’t know, not started an unnecessary war. It’s bewildering to consider it a point in the administration’s favor that its premier adversary in Iraq managed to be even more counterproductive, hubristic and prone to miscalculation. The essay as a whole is rather critical of the Bush administration, and I’m all for saying something nice every once in a while, but that point kind of muddies the broader picture.

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