Aka Thomas Friedman. He may just have the deftest ability in the whole wide world of mixing metaphors. The most recent example of this comes in a column where he gives the United States either ten months or ten years in Iraq, depending on whether the goal is just to get out without losing face or whether the goal is to create a functioning state (never mind a democracy).
Anyway, Friedman repeats his old Pottery Barn metaphor. He is quite proud of it, I think, so here it is, again:
On Feb. 12, 2003, before the war, I wrote a column offering what I called my "pottery store" rule for Iraq: "You break it, you own it." It was not an argument against the war, but rather a cautionary note about the need to do it with allies, because transforming Iraq would be such a huge undertaking. (Colin Powell later picked up on this and used the phrase to try to get President Bush to act with more caution, but Mr. Bush did not heed Mr. Powell's advice.)
But my Pottery Barn rule was wrong, because Iraq was already pretty broken before we got there — broken, it seems, by 1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism, three brutal decades of Sunni Baathist rule, and a crippling decade of U.N. sanctions. It was held together only by Saddam's iron fist. Had we properly occupied the country, and begun political therapy, it is possible an American iron fist could have held Iraq together long enough to put it on a new course. But instead we created a vacuum by not deploying enough troops.
Did you think it clever, too? Then you will appreciate the ending of his latest column:
This has left us with two impossible choices. If we're not ready to do what is necessary to crush the dark forces in Iraq and properly rebuild it, then we need to leave — because to just keep stumbling along as we have been makes no sense. It will only mean throwing more good lives after good lives into a deeper and deeper hole filled with more and more broken pieces.
I need to get more sleep. I'm getting grumpy.