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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

Again with The Simpsons.

There's an episode--a clip show, actually--in which the plot is driven by it being April Fool's Day. Homer plays a series of practical jokes on Bart, and Bart responds by shaking up a beer in a paint mixer and getting Homer to flip the top. In the next shot, we see the roof of the house being blown off by a kind of mushroom cloud. Homer ends up in the hospital, possibly paralyzed for life. Homer entertains himself in the hospital by electronically raising and lowering the head of the bed while saying, "Bed goes up. Bed goes down." (Later someone else imagines him on a cloud in heaven doing the same thing: "Cloud goes up. Cloud goes down.")

I only bring this up because it reminds me of the limited approaches to policy--and the question of how to extricate ourselves from the morass in Iraq in particular--that our political leaders take. Every question devolves to a toggle-switch kind of answer. Stay or go. Fund or withhold. Bed goes up or bed goes down.

It seems to me that there are other ways of looking at this situation than just in binary pairs. I'm on record with thoughts for how to deal with Iraq that, whatever their plusses or minuses, are not just toggle-switch thinking. Good policy cannot be made just by a shortsighted, kneejerk opposition to whatever the other guys advocate. In order to make good policy, our policymakers need to get beyond the pairs of opposites and stick a toe into the great ocean of complex options that might be available.