Josh Marshall is indeed on fire at the thought of his nemeses – the dreaded, evil, incompetent neocons – getting their comeuppance in Iraq. The rhetoric he’s using, however, seems to me a little overwrought. The White House is in a “meltdown,” a state “of pandemonium and implosion.” Huh? Don’t get your hopes up, Josh. Marshall has staked a certain amount of cred on being just, well, so much smarter than anyone in the administration, but a hawk as well. But his hyperbole strikes me as somewhat undermining of his case. Let’s concede for a moment that his premises are right (I don’t actually concede that, but let that go for a moment). Let’s say that the light, Rumsfeldian strategy didn’t pull off the immediate victory the White House hoped for. Why is that such a disaster, prompting “pandemonium and implosion”? It would be a disaster if there was no back-up. But it seems quite clear that the Iraq invasion was based on a plan that was flexible enough to shoot for the stars at first, but prepared for the earth if needs be. Yes, part of the motive for “shock and awe” was also presumably a global deterrent – a signal to Syria, Iran and NoKo that we could do it elsewhere. (Why is that such a bad idea?) But that’s still not essential for victory. Fighting ambitiously is no sin. Fighting ambitiously without a back-up is. What I don’t understand is why a two-month campaign that ends up with major forces in Iraq, the liberation of Baghdad, and the end of Saddam isn’t still a huge success. Just because it isn’t an amazing, sudden victory doesn’t mean it isn’t a victory. Josh thinks our bombing of Baghdad is turning civilians against us. I don’t know how he knows this. As far as I can tell, we have the power to be patient, and the resources still to win. It seems crazy to me to panic and point fingers at this point, although I don’t begrudge people with axes to grind from doing so (old Pentagon officials who believe in the old methods, neolibs trying to be hawks without being neocons, et al.) The Mickster unearths a useful quote from Kenneth Pollack, the acceptable face of hawkery for the liberal elites, about a future war against Saddam:

Probably the most likely scenario would be about one third of Iraq’s armed forces fighting hard, limited use of tactical WMD, and some extensive combat in a few cities. In this most likely case, the campaign would probably last four to eight weeks and result in roughly 500 to 1,000 American combat deaths.

If that’s your standard, instead of Marshall’s irrational exuberance, then the war is going better than predicted. I may still be proven wrong. Wars are unpredictable. But Marshall’s statement that the entire enterprise is now doomed to military and/or diplomatic and/or political failure strikes me as something that may come back to haunt him.