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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Iraq The Model (uh, Model Longest Term Engagement)

What's happening in Iraq?

I have not seen such a wide discrepancy in expert views since late 2005.
- Tom Ricks, 2/24/2010, NYT Op-Ed

  • Elections on March 7th. Last minute boycotts, drama, and horrible violence, etc.
  • We continue to play an important brokering role, etc., despite "overwatch" status.
  • The original, lawful power sharing rules will expire, shortly, making it easier to consolidate power. Whether that power is accepted or used wisely (e.g. with pending hydrocarbon law, etc.)?:

    In the past these issues have led to violence, and if the March elections cause tensions to resurface they may lead to conflict at a time when U.S. troops are quickly leaving the country. In following this policy the United States is taking a risk, passing responsibility for security to newly elected Iraqi officials before they may be ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead of them. Careful and constant evaluation of changing conditions is necessary to ensure that the United States withdraws from Iraq responsibly, leaving behind a government that can provide security for its people and govern effectively - not a house of cards that will fall apart at the first sign of conflict.

    -Anthony Cordesman

    You know what that means. More troops.

    [Update: Odierno requests more troops - how good am I? LOL. You can't make this stuff up. One can't help but notice that the military only made force requests through the JCS under Rumsfeld, but not under Obama.]

  • No one can say with a high degree of confidence whether the political situation is grim and getter worse, doing "well enough" or getting better.

    The practical impact of the seemingly arbitrary use of the Bremer-regent de-Baatification law in the run-up to the elections is impossible to determine. (Tom Ricks has shown a pair of very good, competing viewpoints, for instance, on his blog).

    What one is after through elections and institutions is accountability and checks-and-balances and, broadly put, the ability to deliver Justice to the people.

    In those terms, it's not clear that, in the short run, cutting out the secularists is horrible (except insofar as they prey on women and minorities, abjectly). In the long-run, cutting out secularists is a recipe for stagnation and abject conservatism, and a staff for fundamentalism. A vibrant secularist movement is vital to long-term success

  • Is the day-to-day life for civilians across the board improving or not? Are there mid-term roadbumps that will upset any current trajectory?

    Very hard to tell. People move their internal benchmarks. Even tangible progress doesn't feel like it, sometimes, as "improvements" are "taken for granted" or "accepted as 'what should have been done a long time ago'".

    Who knows, in general? Electricity output is the same as it was. Bond prices have improved. Inflation is under control.

State Department updates.
The DOD's quarterlies.