Barricades

BARRICADES….I remember years ago writing that I hoped Iraq didn’t become the “West Bank writ large,” but this isn’t quite what I had in mind:

The U.S. military is walling off at least 10 of Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods and using biometric technology to track some of their residents, creating what officers call “gated communities” in an attempt to carve out oases of safety in this war-ravaged city….The tactic is part of the two-month-old U.S. and Iraqi counterinsurgency plan to calm sectarian strife and is loosely modeled after efforts in cities such as Tall Afar and Fallujah, where the military says it has curbed violence by strictly controlling access.

….Wartime Baghdad has become a tableau of barricades as violence has swelled. Enterprising residents put them to use as free advertising space, blank canvases for graffiti and sunny spots for drying carpets.

But the blockading of Baghdad has reached full throttle under this year’s security crackdown, with dozens of new neighborhood military outposts needing protection — and fast. The push has triggered a run on concrete barriers, which sometimes are not fully dry when military engineering units pick them up, said Capt. David Hudson, 30, who leads a company charged with building many of the city’s blast walls. The unit now goes through as many as 2,000 barriers a week.

If Karin Brulliard’s reporting is accurate, feelings are mixed about the barricades among Iraqis themselves. But apparently not so mixed that Prime Minister Nouri-al Maliki hasn’t decided to give in to complaints and demand a halt to at least one of the walls under construction.

Unfortunately, this is probably the key to the whole thing. Physical security is one thing, and obviously Maliki knew about and approved the barricade plan when it was first proposed. Politically, though, he can’t stand up to pressure from the various factions in his government, so now he’s changing his tune. It’s a microcosm of the entire problem with Iraq. This is a political war more than a physical one, and that’s the war we’re losing. Eventually Republicans will figure that out.