Saturday, May 26, 2007

A New Pottery Barn Rule

The hardest question about Iraq is whether or not we're stuck with having to keep troops there because our invasion caused the whole mess. The question implies that we have a moral and practical reponsibility to stay in the war until Iraq emerges as a functioning, secure democracy. Colin Powell called it "The Pottery Barn" rule and I was amused to see how quickly The Pottery Barn stepped up to assure it's customers that they follow no such policy.

Besides, it really isn't "you broke it, you bought it." It's "You broke it, so you have to fix it."

Imagine a Pottery Barn that ran by that rule. Imagine I knock a pottery vase off a shelf and it shatters into a million pieces. I lay down newspapers on the aisle and set to gluing the thing back together. As I do this, other shoppers trip over me, flail around, complain that I'm in their way and get glue all over themselves. Meanwhile, my cell phone is ringing as friends and loved ones want to know why I've been at the Pottery Barn for six hours. "Just come home," they say.

At some point the Pottery Barn manager will realize that I'm incapable of fixing the vase. At some point the manager says, "Just go." Or even, "Go, or I'll call the cops."

We broke Iraq. But that doesn't mean we can fix Iraq. Indeed, our efforts at fixing it might just be making things worse. No, they are.

It's irresponsible to pretend that we can fix what we can't fix. The responsible thing is to admit that this is beyond us and to go home.


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