I’ve been talking a lot recently about how the lack of discussing passion in international relations has caused a lot of problems. A prime example is that of the Iraq Study Group which is the classic example of rational philosopher-kings trying to rule, but missing the element of emotion and passion. The recommendations of the ISG are designed specifically so that Iraq does not become a political issue, but this is ultimately undermined by the fact that key question of Iraq is one of passion.
The key question is how much pain and suffering the American people are willing to undergo in order to meet its objectives, whatever they are. How many dollars are the American people willing to spend and how many bodies are the American people willing to accept?
This is ultimately a political question about passion that *cannot* be answered by rational, unemotional means, and there needs to be a national debate to answer this question and come up with something approaching a national consensus on the answer. Once the answer of how passionate the American electorate feels about Iraq is answered, then the implementation steps become mere details.
The ideal forum for this debate is the 2008 Presidential elections. Iraq needs to be the main focus of that election, and this is the idea time for people to debate the issues. The goal of the Bush administration I believe is to stabilize the situation so that the American electorate can have as many options open in 2008 about what to do next. The people who need to decide this question are not the philosopher-kings, but people who will expend the blood and treasure needed in Iraq.