Thursday, January 11, 2007

The "hail mary" metaphor

The blogosphere is awash with descriptions of Bush's decision to escalate in Iraq as a "hail mary."

The "hail mary" metaphor is actually too kind to Bush. Hail mary passes make a morbid kind of sense when you are down to the last few seconds of a game and have to score a touchdown to win, in a binary win-lose situation. That metaphor may be fairly accurate as a description of Bush's personal political fortunes and place in history, but it is far from the truth about the grand strategic situation for the U.S.

For the United States--as opposed to for Bush personally--the global situation is bad, but not (yet) nearly so dire. The situation in Iraq undoubtedly poses an existential threat to Bush's legacy, but not (yet) does it pose an existential threat to the United States. Come what may, the country will lumber on after January '09, and a realistic assessment of the country's options at this point do not point to a binary win/lose situation, but rather to a nuanced lose/lose-worse situation. However, instead of focusing on our country's long-term real interests, Bush and team are throwing a hail mary for his legacy.

In other words, the better football metaphor is that Bush is like a quarterback who has thrown three interceptions in the first half of the game; but even as the coach responds to the quarterback's incompetence by calling running plays, the quarterback goes to the line and unilaterally overrides the coach by calling an audible for a hail mary pass, hoping for a miracle that can salvage his reputation. If this were a football game, the coach would certainly bench the quarterback at this point; alas, in our game of political football, we have little realistic possibility for such.

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