Some folks think U.S. troops should leave Iraq promptly. Others worry that a premature departure could mean civil war and re-exporting battle-hardened jihadists from a terrorist haven in Iraq.
But Richard A. Falkenrath, former White House deputy homeland security adviser and now a think-tanker, recently had a different take: Everyone should just relax. This Iraq thing will work out fine for the United States even if Iraq implodes into civil war.
Musing about the war on terrorism at a symposium last week at the Brookings Institution, where he's a senior fellow, Falkenrath tossed out another notion, a variant of the "flypaper" theory President Bush has used, that the fighting in Iraq has drawn the terrorists there, "so we don't have to fight them here."
"A lot of Sunni terrorists have gone there," conceded Falkenrath, a former Harvard professor. "They are becoming more formidable . . . [with] real on-the-ground training."
"But they're also starting to engage the Shiites and engage in a sectarian conflict to a larger degree," Falkenrath said. "And it's possible -- this is a hypothesis -- but it's possible that they will be consumed in an Iraqi civil war rather than getting re-exported as more formidable Sunni terrorists in the coming years."
"Now that's a bad circumstance for Iraq, no question," he said. "But it may be that it is something that" reduces the chance of an attack on "the far enemy." (That would be us.) So we're golden. Either we get prosperous democracy or a raging civil war that keeps the bad guys tied up.
Some Options for Brownie
And now, the winners of the In the Loop "Brownie's Next Gig" Contest. This was to suggest a suitable job for former FEMA chief Michael D. Brown:
1. "Umbrella holder for Michael Jackson." -- Ed Sheehy of Falls Church.
2. "The next Iraqi information minister." -- A U.S. government official in Romania who explained why with a quiz. "Who said each of the following," our winner asked, Brown or Saddam's flack, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf?
* "There are no American infidels in Baghdad, never."
* "Our nation is prepared, as never before, to deal quickly and capably with the consequences of disasters."
* "Our initial assessment is that they will all die."
* "Paula, the federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today."
"See? It's hard to tell them apart," the official said.
3. "Commissioner of the National Hockey League. At least if he fails no one will notice." -- John Batey, a college professor from Indianapolis. Also submitted by prior winner Howard Cohen of North Hills, Calif.
4. "Coordinator of cookie sales for the Girl Scouts. Brownie is a natural for cookies. And it is so beautifully organized there's no risk on either side." -- Carl Clavadetscher, a professor at the National Defense University at Fort McNair.
5. "He can bumble into FedEx commercials with the tag line: 'See what Brown can do for you.' " -- Penney Kolb, a hand-knitting designer from Ewing, N.J.
6. "Write a book called 'Brownie Points: Making the Right Kind of Friends to Line Up a Cushy Government Job.' " -- Sharon M. Lucas, a project data specialist at Penn State University in University Park, Pa.
7. "Whatever his next job, the one after that is when he writes: 'Yes, You CAN Work in This Town Again!' with inspirational chapters by Bob Livingston, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton and Jack Abramoff and an afterword by Joe Gibbs." -- Matt Hussman, a public space manager for the Downtown Business Improvement District in Washington.
8. "Chief of staff for Sen. Joe Biden. They could compare resume horror stories." -- Matt Fay of Arlington.
9. "Director of emergency escalator operations for WMATA." -- Larry Sternbane, an airline schedule planning analyst from Rockville.
10. "Comcast's director of Cable Installation Scheduling." -- Charles Pinck, a senior vice president at Global Options in the District.
11. "With actor Bob Denver's recent death," Brown could play the hapless Gilligan "in a possible Comedy Central revival of the old TV sitcom 'Gilligan's Island.' " -- Dave Alberswerth, senior policy director at the Wilderness Society.
12. "Chairman of the Committee to Re-elect Blanco-Nagin." -- Jim Custer, a health specialist in Friedens, Pa.
13. "Any motor vehicle department in any state," or the "IRS telephone help line." -- tech business owner Kathleen Flynn Barron of Tigard, Ore.
14. "Microsoft's help line." -- Charles K. Manka of Alexandria, a physicist and support contractor at the Naval Research Laboratory in the District.
15. "Whatever he does, I'd like him to go through the Witness Protection Program and get a new name." -- Michael E. Brown of Washington.
And there were a couple of "special" winners:
Charles Bouy of Baton Rouge, La., said: "Kamen, you are a contemptible fat [deleted]. You should be fired for your despicable distortions of the truth." Fat? And he picked an XXXL T-shirt?
And one Michael Valmas says: "You've been doing this column WAY too long."
Well, that's for sure.
Thanks to our judges, Washington Post polling director Richard Morin and Style reporter Paul Farhi, and National News aide Tina Alva. And thanks to all for playing.