Saturday, October 28, 2006

Iraq and the Kubler-Ross Model

In 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published an influential book called On Death and Dying which was one of the first scholarly books to examine how people cope with the news that they are dying.

Central to the book was a thesis that has come to be known as the Kubler-Ross model which describes five stages of grief that terminally ill go through. The model has, since then, been generalized to apply to any situation where one is coping with catastrophic news.

Perhaps this may sound flip, but it occurs to me that the current Administration seems to be going through something akin to those five stages with regards to the war in Iraq.

Stage 1: Denial

After the initial exuberance of military victory, it quickly became apparent that occupying the country was going to be much more difficult than anticipated and that, worst of all, awe were not being universally greeted as liberators. To the contrary, an insurgency quickly emerged from the initial chaos and it rapidly became obvious that the insurgency wasn't going to go away easily.

Never the less, the Administration's initial reaction was denial. Rather that admitting the obvious, they claimed that the insurgency was composed of foreigners and "dead enders", that it was weak, that it didn't have any popular support, and that it was, of course, in its "last throes".

Stage 2: Anger

As the conflict continued and popular support begin to wane, the Administration became angry. The anger wasn't merely directed towards the insurgents but was also directed towards critics of the Administration as well as the fledgling government of Iraq. We were told that criticism emboldened the enemy and that speaking out against the handling of the war was almost (and, perhaps, exactly) tantamount to treason. Press conferences started to become contentious. When the President and his spokesmen responded to charges, the tone became contentious.

Stage 3: Bargaining

I believe that this is where we are at right now. The President and his staff have admitted that things aren't really going well but they are pleading with the public to be patient. They are assuring us that, if we just give them another chance, they can still make things right. Instead of denying that there is a problem, or lashing out at those who point to the existence of the problem, they are saying that there's still an opportunity to correct it if we only give them more time.

Stage 4: Depression

I think that we're starting to see signs of depression. There are subtle indications that some administration insiders are starting to believe that the situation may well be beyond hope; that the war may well be a lost cause. It is impossible to know how high up this sentiment goes but it is apparent that the optimistic front the Administration has put forward is crumbling.

Stage 5: Acceptance

I don't believe that the Administration is ready to accept a loss quite yet but there does seem to be a growing sentiment among the GOP that the situation can not be salvaged and that it's time to start thinking of what to do next.

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