Best Defense

Stuck in Iraq

Salon just carried an insightful review of my book that triggered a mudslide of nasty letters from the magazine’s readers. “If you enjoyed ‘Fiasco,’ thrilled to have your prejudices about the clueless Bush administration confirmed, it’s your responsibility to read ‘The Gamble’ to have some prejudices challenged,” wrote the reviewer, Joan Walsh, Salon‘s editor-in-chief. I ...

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IMAM ANAS, IRAQ: Soldiers from RAF 51 squadron regiment comes to the rescue of colleauges stuck in mud on patrol on the northern outskirts of Basra , 27 January 2005. AFP PHOTO/ODD ANDERSEN (Photo credit should read ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Salon just carried an insightful review of my book that triggered a mudslide of nasty letters from the magazine’s readers.

“If you enjoyed ‘Fiasco,’ thrilled to have your prejudices about the clueless Bush administration confirmed, it’s your responsibility to read ‘The Gamble’ to have some prejudices challenged,” wrote the reviewer, Joan Walsh, Salon‘s editor-in-chief. I think she really captured the ambivalence at the heart of the book, the sense that staying in Iraq is far from appealing, but may be the least worst choice available. Her review concludes that, “I still want troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. But reading this well-reported book may have changed even my notion of what that means.”

Her readers didn’t like hearing that, and posted a variety of angry responses. Here’s the note I sent to Walsh after reading some, but not all, of the 117 responses:

Looking over the comments on your review, I think what a lot of people are failing to grasp, or are resisting understanding, is that there are no good answers in Iraq. The question many of them don’t seem to want to face is, what is the least bad answer?

It was a pre-emptive war launched on false premises that distracted us from the task at hand in Afghanistan. Everything that has happened in Iraq since then is the fruit of that poisoned tree. Given that original sin, what do we do? Staying in Iraq isn’t appealing. Leaving risks genocide and regional war.

So what do your more vehement readers recommend? What do you do if both courses of action are bad, even immoral?”

Meanwhile, tensions between Kurds and Arabs are rising in northern Iraq and could lead to war, according to a story by the intrepid Leila Fadel.

Hat tip on this to old Juan Cole

ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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