Keeping Up With Change in Iraq
The situation in Iraq is changing so rapidly, it can be hard to keep up with. For instance:
Thomas Ricks' Fiasco is one of the most influential books about the war in Iraq. It was published just over a year ago, to considerable acclaim. It was only a few days ago, however, that I began to read the book.
One of the first things is noticed is a map that precedes the title page. The map is entitled "The Sunni 'Triangle': Heart of the Insurgency". That title speaks volumes about the dramatic changes in Iraq over the past six months.
A year ago, when Fiasco was published, it seemed delusional to hope that the US and its Iraqi allies could ever take back the Sunni provinces of Western Iraq. We understood the war in Iraq as essentially a civil war between Shi'ites and Sunnis. Since we had taken the side of the Shi'ites after the fall of Saddam, it seemed perfectly logical to assume that the most heavily Sunni parts of Iraq were the natural home of the insurgency.
Gen. Petraeus has up-ended that logic and shown that we can turn many of Iraq's Sunnis into our most effective allies -- more effective than most Shi'ites. This strategy has its perils, but those perils are almost infinitely preferable to the status quo of July 2006.
A 75% reducation in attacks in what was once the heartland of the insurgency. Is there any hope of extending that progress to the rest of Iraq? There are good reasons to say 'no'. Whereas Anbar is all-Sunni, Baghdad is a mixed metropolis with vicious Sunni-Shi'ite violence. How can any US strategy succeed on such dangerous terrain?
A year ago, we were asking the same question about Anbar.