It is difficult to imagine any reason why a modest increase in troop strength (the Bush administration's surge) could make any meaningful difference. Perhaps an enorous increase might install some level of calm in the form of martial law. But this would merely suppress the political, ethnic, and religious divisions in the country temporarily; they would resurface whenever these trooops withdraw.
Similarly, it is difficult to see why any diplomatic approach or set of timetables and deadlines will work any better in the future than it has so far. The Iraqi government has neither the ability nor the desire to achieve the various transitional goals. Thus, this approach is just a way to shift blame from the U.S. to Iraq in preparation for eventual withdrawal.
So what options are left? Withdraw now. This approach has its own negatives; in particular, it might unleash a torrent of bloodshed. That outcome is not entirely pre-ordained; the Shiite majority might take control quickly enough that transition to a Shiite-dominated theocracy is less violent than the current situation. But a prolonged and deadly civil war is unquestionably possible.
But, whatever is going to happen is going to happen whether we withdraw tomorrow; or in a year; or in a decade. Our continued presence, if anything, only makes matters worse. So, we should just get out now.
The Nevada legislature has passed a school voucher plan (see Greg Mankiw's blog). The plan provides a voucher worth between $500 and $3,000 to every school-age child in the state.
I have no doubt this plan will help many families. But I have serious reservations about this approach because the plan does not eliminate public schools. In my view this means many benefits of vouchers have been missed, namely, disenfranching the teachers' union and reducing other bureaucracy and inefficiency.
One standard argument for maintaining public schools asserts that the private sector cannot create enough private schools, at least not quickly. I disagree. My guess is that a sufficient quantity and quality of private schools would arise in months, if a state eliminated public schools and offered universal vouchers of, say, $5,000 per child.
My hunch here relies in part on a broad view of what might constitute a school under universal vouchers. Good schools do not require orchestras, football teams, and fitness centers; or drama, photography, and drivers ed; or innumerable guidance counselors, vice principals, and learning "specialists." Some of these things are nice to have, but a quality education can proceed with far less.
No doubt, under universal vouchers, elite schools would exist charging tens of thousands in tuition and providing many amenities. But a good education can occur in a basement with one teacher and a reasonable number of willing students.