Monday, November 26, 2007

Beyond the Drop in Violence in Iraq

Arianna Huffington dismisses Iraq progress in her post up this morning:

In Sunday's New York Times U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker was quoted as saying Iraq is "going to be a long, hard slog."

Sound familiar?

It should, because here was then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- four years and one month ago:

"It will be a long, hard slog."

This thing has been going on for so long, the administration is reusing excuses. But hey, at least the administration can now claim it's no longer hostile to recycling, right?

Even more staggering was the rest of the Times piece, which was part of the administration's quarterly Lowering Of Expectations. It's like clockwork: if there's a piece in the Times quoting unnamed "leaders" in "both capitals" who "continue to hold out hope", an "elated" White House, and mention of "positive signs" all around, you know the seasons have just changed. It's sort of like the solstice, only profoundly depressing.

What else did we learn this time out? That "with American military successes outpacing political gains in Iraq, the Bush administration has lowered its expectation of quickly achieving major steps toward unifying the country..."

Really? So we can all stop holding our breath about "quickly" unifying the country? I'd say the "quickly" ship sailed four years ago. Now it's no longer about quick or not-so-quick, it's about ever or never, as in: will we ever leave Iraq?
Read the whole thing.

Huffington's obviously not serious in discussing Iraq. She'd prefer a withdrawal, that faster the better.
She cites Matthew Yglesias as a source for declaring the surge a failure, ostensibly because "political reconciliation" has been gradual. Note something Yglesias says about Iraq:

The stated goals of invading Iraq were to eliminate its nuclear weapons program, which failed because there was no such program, and to turn it into a shining beacon of democracy to inspire reformers throughout the region, which also failed since Iraq has instead become a scare story autocrats use to keep elites and middle class types unified behind the regime.
That's only partially true (Yglesias naturally omits mention of U.S. enforcement of numerous U.N. resolutions against Iraq, which the Clinton adminstration failed to uphold).

In the next paragraph, Yglesias says that after casualties declined, it was determined that "that the surge had failed and the political situation was the same as it had been at the beginning." Yglesias goes on to attack the Iraq mission, because "the war has simply been to create a never-ending American military presence in Iraq..."

Huffington and Yglesias don't care about progress in Iraq. No improvement in the military or political picture will satisy them. They're stuck in a 2003 mentality on the war's origins, and they're stuck in a pre-surge mentality on President Bush's post-2006 military strategy. This is not analysis; it's ideological perfidy.

But be sure to read Amir Taheri's new piece at the New York Post, "
Iraq: Beyond the Drop in Violence":

'A TORRENT of good news": So the New York Times described the reports of a significant fall in violence in Iraq. But reducing all Iraqi news to measures of violence can hamper understanding of a complex situation.

Those who opposed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 prefer to focus on violence, for it has seemed to confirm their claim that the war was wrong. They've downplayed all good news from post-Saddam Iraq - the end of an evil regime that had oppressed the Iraqi people for 35 years; the return home of a million-plus Iraqi refugees in the first year after liberation; the fact that the Iraqis got together to write a new constitution and hold referendums and free elections - for the first time in their history - and moved to form coalition governments answerable to the parliament.

The drop in violence is certainly a good thing. But other Iraq news, both good and bad, needs to be taken into account.

After mentioning the dramatic return of Iraqi refugees from Syria, Taheri notes a highlight:

Thanks to mediation by Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Shiite coalition, the three groups that had withdrawn from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government are expected to return to the fold.
Taheri's not all rosy about the situation, which is the sign of an accomplished analyst. He indicates, for example:

A new leadership elite has emerged locally, but isn't represented in central decision-making. In parts of the country, the officials in place are isolated, if not actually disliked, while unofficial leaders organize and manage some services that government should provide.
He cites other difficulties, but concludes thus:

IRAQ today is a hundred times better than what it would have been under Saddam in any imaginable circumstances. Statistics of violence don't begin to measure the efforts of a whole nation to re-emerge from the darkest night in its history. And in that sense, the news from Iraq since April 2003 has always been more good than bad.

What is new is that now more Americans appear willing to acknowledge this - good news in itself. As long as the United States remains resolute in its support for the new Iraq, there will be more good news than bad from what is at present the main battlefield in the War on Terror.
Yeah, more Americans are acknowledging this, except the Bush-bashing antiwar nihilists, who refuse to recognize the astonishing gains the U.S. and Iraqis have made in turning around an extremely difficult project of democratic liberation.