There are five Iraqis in a boat in the middle of the ocean. Right in the middle of their boat is a huge spike with barbs all around it and razor edges. The Iraqis don't like it being there, but they don't dare remove it because getting near it is very dangerous and, besides, it is kind of holding the boat together.
Forty Americans pull up alongside in a much bigger, better equipped boat, and they see the spike and the predicament the Iraqis are in. Partly because they think the spike is dangerous to the Iraqis, and partly on the theory that it could be dangerous to other boats, they decide they must remove the spike. Five Americans jump in and swiftly knock out the spike, because despite it being dangerous, they have excellent spike-removal tools.
The Iraqis are partly happy, because now their dangerous spike is gone, and partly worried, because now there is a hole in the bottom of their boat and they are taking on water. The Americans say, "Okay, this water is a new challenge we weren't necessarily expecting, but we have pretty good buckets for bailing out the water." So a few of the Americans get out of the Iraqi boat, and a few more with buckets get in, and the Americans start bailing out the boat. These Americans are trying to teach the Iraqis how to bail out the boat too, but they aren't sure the Iraqis can handle it by themselves. And the problem is, while the Americans have excellent spike-removal tools and decent water-bailing tools, they don't have any hole-repairing tools.
So the Iraqis are trying to learn how to bail and are also trying to work on repairing the boat, but they don't really have any tools whatsoever, so repairing the boat isn't going so well. Every so often a few Americans come off and a few more come on, but by now almost all the Americans have been on the Iraqi boat longer than they would have liked. There is some dispute as to how well the Americans are doing at bailing out the boat, but if the Americans stop bailing, the boat is going to sink, and if the Americans are on it, they will sink with it. And the Americans are divided: half say we need to get out of this sinking boat, and the other half say we have to keep bailing because it would be disastrous if the boat sank. But the problem isn't the water, it's the hole in the boat, and no one knows how to repair it.
Indexed by tags Iraq, war, boat, allegory.
Image credits: The Gulf Stream, Winslow Homer, American, 1899.