An extremely interesting piece has surfaced over here, co-written by Max Boot, one of the war’s strongest supporters still. A key part:
…the government headed by Nouri Maliki is moving with agonizing slowness, running the risk that civil war may be reignited.
The danger grows because the five surge brigades — fully one-quarter of American combat power — are scheduled to return home by August. Coincidentally, thousands of former insurgents will be released from American-run prisons. In Baghdad alone, more than 30 detainees a day are expected to return at a time when there are substantially fewer American soldiers on the streets.
Meanwhile, American and Iraqi units still have to drive Al Qaeda from Mosul and the desert close to the border with Syria, which remains a sanctuary for extremists. Iran also continues to train and fund Shiite extremist gangs. So Petraeus has his hands full. His task will become more difficult if shortsighted officials in Washington push for even more troop reductions later this year.
However, it is the government’s ineffectiveness, not the insurgency, that is Iraq’s biggest problem.
It goes on from there, ending on this note:
The U.S. should support democracy in Iraq, not Maliki per se.
A few weeks ago, the Kurds threatened a “no confidence” vote if the prime minister did not share power. Chastened, Maliki seemed to agree. The tests will be whether he permits Sunnis to join the police force in representative numbers, disburses funds to the provinces and permits legislation for provincial elections certain to weaken his authoritarian efforts to control Iraq. If he doesn’t come through, the American president may have no choice but to cast his vote — probably a decisive one — against the Iraqi prime minister.
To say there are shades of policy decisions and arguments paralleling the support or lack thereof of South Vietnamese regimes here is to understate. Nothing irritates those who still believe in this whole mess than Vietnam comparisons, but it has to be said that pieces like these are not doing their cause any favors.
This said, go back to the first part I noted and consider time here. I’ve said before and will say even more forcefully now that the timing of the end of the surge as such is a massive risk on the part of the administration, and it is one that is not necessarily panning out. The hope — clearly — was that Bush would be able to claim that all was well going into the presidential election itself, in the hopes that it would be fully off the table now. The surge troops will be back by a few months before the election, though, and all signs have been that there’s a fragile stability at best — this isn’t wishful thinking, it’s something that’s been repeatedly said by military officials, and while plenty of anecdotal evidence has surfaced from individual soldiers and milbloggers that things are even more tense than might be guessed.
I’ve also said before that all we can do is watch and wait, and that’s pretty much what’s happening here, but the undertones are worth observing. Boot and his co-author’s seemingly diffident conclusion, but only in a misdirecting sense (‘may have no choice but to cast his vote — probably a decisive one,’ please — talk about having your cake and eating it too!) may not be overtly driven by US political calculations but it’s lurking there, waiting. If things descend into a bloody mess once again, GOP dreams of victory in November are even more fantastical than ever.
Of course, the thing to note is that at this point predicting the exact future in Iraq is impossible — in many ways it has defied all predictions but the succinct made by my friend years ago that the war would be won easily, but the peace would not. To reiterate again, meanwhile, nobody but a cruel fool wants more death and destruction. It’s entirely possible that that’s what we’re going to get, though, beyond the rolling tragedies that still occur, such as the bombing in Mosul that killed five US soldiers earlier today.
But again, all we can do now is watch, and wait. And hope.