We've Made Progress in Iraq
The Progress magazine has a good summary of the situation in Iraq. The article is a little long, but it is well worth reading. Since it's too long -- and too complex -- for me to summarize, I'll just quote from their concluding paragraphs.
Understanding this expensive victory is a matter of understanding the remaining violence. Now that Iraq's big questions have been resolved--break-up? No. Shia victory? Yes. Will violence make the Americans go home? No. Do Iraqis like voting? Yes. Do they like Iraq? Yes -- Iraq's violence has largely become local and criminal. The biggest fact about Iraq today is that the violence, while tragic, has ceased being political, and is therefore no longer nearly as important as it was.
The argument of this article -- that with nothing more to resolve from political violence, Iraqis can now settle down to gorge themselves at the oil trough -- is based on two premises: Sunni acknowledgement of the failure of their insurgency and the need to reach an accommodation with the new Iraq, and a conjunction of interests between the coalition on one hand and the Kurds and Shias on the other.
We have become very familiar with General Petraeus and the disputed numbers of his surge. Does US strategy reflect the phenomena I have described? The Americans have never argued this way. But reading between the lines, American thinking does seem broadly to accord with the conclusions of this argument, if not its premises. Petraeus has already announced the first marine and army drawdowns for September and December respectively. His boss, defence secretary Robert Gates, is hoping publicly for a net withdrawal of 60,000 troops next year. Bush too is promising cuts. These plans are a recognition that the job in Iraq is moving rapidly towards something closer to Iraqi police work than American war.
To get to that point, the article discusses the sources of Iraqi violence, the status of the political situation, the role of al-Sadr in promoting peace (seriously!), the Sunni's desparate efforts to retain control after Saddam was killed, and the Shia's patience in not wiping out all of the Sunni's long ago.
So, really, go read it.