The Bosnian Example for Iraq

It's hard to avoid the comparison between the country [Bosnia] deemed a quagmire in the 1990s and the one where the United States is bogged down today.

Start with the U.S. and other NATO troops who began arriving in Bosnia shortly before Christmas 1995. There were 60,000 of them at first in a country of 4 million, or more than twice as many per capita as now are deployed in Iraq. Ten years later they are still there -- the American contingent left only a year ago. All sides agree they will have to stay on for years to come, since Bosnia's police and army forces are still not ready to take over full responsibility for security. Billions have meanwhile been spent on reconstruction, under the supervision of a Western proconsul with the power to overrule the Bosnian government. from The Bosnian Example for Iraq

Of course, this NYT op-ed takes a much less rosy view of the situation in Bosnia.

A decade after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country's development remains hamstrung by the very Dayton peace agreement that rescued it from destruction and saved the lives of many of its people.

This is an interesting article that (implicitly) raises the important question of why nobody is discussing the possibility of solving the Iraq situation with adding more (as many two or three times the current level) troops to Iraq. These wouldn't necessarily have to be US troops and any such move would have to be supported by massive direct aid (and cleverly directed bribes) and it still might not work. However, it seems to be an intriguing option.

What is even more intriguing from the perspective of this blog is how the public debate can limit itself to only particular avenues of thought. Almost as if the "grammar and dictionary" of prevailing discourse did not include certain ways of expressing certain ideas.

An even more general point, and one which (given my research interests) is exercising me greatly, is the role and use of analogies and metaphors in public discourse. Quite obviously, the author is making a particular point and inviting others to participate in its conceptual consequences. The question (both theoretical and practical) is how can we account for those elusive mechanisms governing the transfer from a private, ad-hoc analogy such as this, to one that is a part of the conceptual system and has an impact on our inferential reasoning about a particular area of experience. The difficulty is illustrated by the NYT quote, where the author has a slightly more complicated view of the source domain (situation in Bosnia) and might have a different way of integrating it with the target domain (situation in Iraq).