Home/Daniel Larison/Dangers Of Optimism, Continued

Dangers Of Optimism, Continued

“We were way too optimistic,” said the officer, adding that September is now the goal for establishing basic security in most neighborhoods, the same month that Bush administration officials have said they plan to review the progress of the plan. ~The New York Times

So if all goes well according to this new schedule, the “surge” will be running about two or three months behind its original timetable…just in time for it be judged by all and sundry in September.  Simply from a political standpoint, this is the sort of information they needed to be giving the public months ago.  (Of course, Bush might have had a harder time winning on the funding bill if the public knew just how relatively little progress has been made.)  They needed fewer pundits declaring the “surge” to be a success and more assessments that say, “Yes, it’s working, sort of, but it’s taking much longer than we anticipated and it remains extremely difficult.”  This is not exactly a confidence-booster, but it sounds much more realistic and sober.  Frankly, Americans are suffering from an overdose of confidence-boosters.  They could stand some plain, matter-of-fact talk right about now.  Support for the war would have bled away at a slower rate had the administration and military been more cautious in their pronouncements of progress and much less optimistic about the time it would take to get things done.  Of course, the truth would be unpopular, but inflating everyone’s hopes and then having them disappointed exacerbates the problem of an already unpopular war.  Having heard from the usual suspects that violence was waning, Sadr was on the run and so on, the public will take the relative lack of substantial progress in securing all of Baghdad that much worse than it would have done had those in authority talked down the “surge.”  Perhaps it is inimical to a military ethos to do this, but with this administration it seems like the safe advice for managing expectations is “aim low.”

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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