Wednesday, May 05, 2004


God bless Jonah.
"Good Lord! You sliced that man open from his neck to his belly! You've cut out his heart! . You're sucking out his blood, you ghoul!"

These are just some of the things you might say if you stumbled on a surgeon conducting a heart transplant.

Of course, you wouldn't actually say it because you'd see the men and women in their gowns and masks, along with all the medical doodads including "the machine that goes 'ping'" - as they say in Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life."

But the important thing to keep in mind is that in a major operation - on a person or a nation - the patient is the most vulnerable, and looks the most horrible, halfway into the procedure, not at the beginning or the end. And if, in your horror, you screamed, "Stop what you're doing right now!" you'd be saying you want the patient to die.

It's not the best analogy for Iraq. Heart surgeons typically have lots of experience. They have guidelines that, if followed more or less faithfully, will yield success most of the time. And heart surgeons rarely get harassed in the operating room.

Meanwhile, nobody under the age of 80 has worked on as ambitious a nation-building project as what we're doing in Iraq...

When Sen. Ted Kennedy says the invasion of Iraq is possibly "the worst blunder in the entire history of American foreign policy," he's putting the cart before the horse (and giving short-shrift to his brother's work in Vietnam). The worst blunder would be the failure to see things through in Iraq.

What's sad is that Kennedy's partisanship makes that blunder more likely. That's probably what prompted Sen. Joe Lieberman to be the grown-up in the Democratic party and ask his colleagues to "stop encouraging our enemies" by undermining the administration's efforts in Iraq.

Still, at this point, there's simply no disputing that Iraq reconstruction isn't going well, though not as badly as many think...

My hope is that what we are witnessing with the halting of "de-Baathification," our backing down in Fallujah, etc., is realism about means, not ends. Compromises on the way to a new Iraq are like amputations on the way to saving a patient - hard choices, but tolerable in comparison to the alternative.

But, you know what? We were told rebuilding Iraq would be hard. When Bush spoke underneath that much derided "mission accomplished" banner, he said this was going to be long and hard. Well, folks, this is precisely what long and hard looks like. Nation building is ugly and difficult; so is cutting out a man's bad heart and putting in a good one.

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