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Defending the Bad Guys?:
If I can put just a toe in the water on the debate as to whether there are a susbtantial number of Western critics who "support the insurgents," or, as the WSJ put it, "side with the Iraqi resistance," I have two quick comments. Or rather, one quick comment and one longer comment. The quick comment is that at least on the question of identifying American (as opposed to Western) critics who have voiced such views, my sense is that the search doesn't seem to be finding much. Based on the evidence so far, at least, there seem to be only a handful of critics in the U.S. who have clearly and unambiguously expressed such views.

  Second, I wonder if the question doesn't generate more heat than light given the different ways that people might perceive what it means to "support the insurgents" or "side with the resistance." In particular, I wonder if our different best guesses of the likely outcomes in the war are exerting too much of an influence on our perceptions of what "side" people are on.

  Here's my thinking. To simplify things, let's assume that we can break down the possible futures in Iraq into four basic possibilities:
  1) The U.S. beats back the insurgency and democracy flowers in Iraq (call this the "optimistic stay" scenario),
  2) The U.S. digs in its heels, spends years fighting the insurgency, loses lots of troops, and years later withdraws, leading to a bloody and disastrous civil war (the "pessimistic stay" scenario);
   3) The U.S. decides that it's no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out relatively soon, and things in Iraq are about as best as you could hope for, perhaps leading to a decent amount of democracy (optimistic leave), and
  4) The U.S. decides that it's no longer worth it to stay in Iraq, pulls out soon, and plunges Iraq into a bloody and disastrous civil war with the bad guys assuming control eventually (pessimistic leave).
  Let's assume that all of us want the best for the United States and democracy in Iraq, but that we are also deeply divided on wisdom of the war in Iraq. Because we all want the best for the U.S. and the prospects of democracy in Iraq, we will all rank options (1) or (3) over options (2) or (4). But because we are divided on the war in Iraq, and therefore are divided on whether U.S. troops are likely to help or hurt things, we will likely split on our perceptions of the likelihood of the different scenarios coming true. If you were for the war, you are likely to see the realistic choice set as between scenarios (1) and (4), and to prefer (1); if you were against the war, you are likely to see the realistic choice set as between scenarios (2) and (3) and to prefer (3).

  The insurgents, on the other hand, seem to want something more like option (4). (At least as far as I can tell — others are much more expert on this than I am.) The problem with claims that one side "supports the insurgents" or "sides with the resistance" then, is that it doesn't clearly distinguish between those who want option (4) over (1) and those who want option (3) over (2). For example, imagine a commentator announces that he wants the U.S. to leave Iraq immediately, but doesn't explain why. Those who are against the war are likely to construe it as advocacy for (3) over (2), as they see those as the two basic options. Those who are for the war may see it as advocacy for (4) over (1), as they see those as the two basic options. And if you're against against the war and favor (3) over (2), you're like to be pretty ticked — and reasonably so — by the suggestion that you're actually in favor of (4) over (1).

  Anyway, all of this is pretty oversimplified. There's a lot more to it that this. But in the end, my sense is that the question may end up generating more heat than light.
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