The Best Defense

The Gamble: the first West Coast swing

Me and the band will be rocking the University of California, Santa Barbara

this Sunday Feb. 22 at 4 pm.

Then, in the following days:

San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 23:

12:30 Stacey's bookstore

6 pm: Commonwealth Club of California


San Francisco, Tues. Feb. 24:

8:00 am: Marines' Memorial Club


Corte Madera, California, Tues. Feb. 24

7 pm: Book Passage (one of my favorite bookstores anywhere-where else might you see Isabel Allende working at the coffee bar?)


Riverside, Calif., Wed., Feb. 25

5:30-World Affairs Council of Southern California


Los Angeles, Calif., Thurs. Feb. 26:

6:30-World Affairs Council of Los Angeles


Pentagon City, Va., Sat. Feb. 28

12 noon--Costco

The Best Defense

Stuck in Iraq

Salon just carried an insightful review of my book that triggered a mudslide of nasty letters from the magazine's readers.

"If you enjoyed 'Fiasco,' thrilled to have your prejudices about the clueless Bush administration confirmed, it's your responsibility to read 'The Gamble' to have some prejudices challenged," wrote the reviewer, Joan Walsh, Salon's editor-in-chief. I think she really captured the ambivalence at the heart of the book, the sense that staying in Iraq is far from appealing, but may be the least worst choice available. Her review concludes that, "I still want troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. But reading this well-reported book may have changed even my notion of what that means."

Her readers didn't like hearing that, and posted a variety of angry responses. Here's the note I sent to Walsh after reading some, but not all, of the 117 responses:

Looking over the comments on your review, I think what a lot of people are failing to grasp, or are resisting understanding, is that there are no good answers in Iraq. The question many of them don't seem to want to face is, what is the least bad answer?

It was a pre-emptive war launched on false premises that distracted us from the task at hand in Afghanistan. Everything that has happened in Iraq since then is the fruit of that poisoned tree. Given that original sin, what do we do? Staying in Iraq isn't appealing. Leaving risks genocide and regional war.

So what do your more vehement readers recommend? What do you do if both courses of action are bad, even immoral?"

Meanwhile, tensions between Kurds and Arabs are rising in northern Iraq and could lead to war, according to a story by the intrepid Leila Fadel.

Hat tip on this to old Juan Cole