Jacob Sullum

Huckabee, who seems to agree the invasion was a mistake, urges us to save "the honor of this country" by trusting the same people who made this mess to clean it up. "We can't leave until we've left with honor," he insists.

And what if that's not possible? What if all that Bush has left us to choose from is different degrees of dishonor?

We can't leave, because the civil war will escalate, terrorists will be emboldened, and Iraq will break into hostile fiefdoms. We can't stay, because the U.S. occupation is inciting violence, discouraging political accommodation, draining our treasury, straining our armed forces, and costing the lives of American soldiers. Yet those are the only two options, and there is little reason to think they will look any better in one year or five or 10.

Huckabee's formulation of Powell's rule is reminiscent of John Kerry's in the September 2004 presidential debate: "If you break it, you fix it." That's rather different from the original idea, which was about compensating the owner of the shattered item, not about trying to glue the shards back together. It's not clear what compensation would mean in the context of Iraq, but refraining from breaking more stuff seems like the least we can do.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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