POSTWAR IRAQ….According the Washington Post, Ahmed Chalabi and his crew aren’t going to get the chance to run Iraq the way they were hoping:

The decision not to hand over power to the former opposition leaders through a hastily formed transitional government, which U.S. officials here said was made by the White House, means the United States will occupy Iraq much longer than initially planned, acting as the ultimate authority for governing the country until a new constitution is authored, national elections held and a new government installed. One senior U.S. official here predicted that process could last two years or more.

“The idea that some in Washington had — that we would come in here, set up the ministries, turn it all over to the seven and get out of Dodge in a few months — was unrealistic,” the official said.

“We gave them a chance,” the official said. “We bankrolled some of them. But they just couldn’t get their act together. It was amateur hour.”

“Some in Washington,” by the way, means “Donald Rumsfeld and his gang at the Pentagon.”

I have to say that in some ways the White House is exceeding my earlier meager expectations. Having first gotten rid of Jay Garner and now following it up by sidelining the Rumsfeld/Chalabi axis, Bush is showing a welcome ability to react to the predictable failure of the neocons’ naive plans for a tidal wave of democracy in the Middle East. Good for him.

The next test is to see just how serious he is about postwar Iraq, something that will be determined by (a) his willingness to keep substantial troop strengh in Iraq through the end of the year and beyond, and (b) his willingness to change his tone and work to increase the level of support from the rest of the world. Both of these things carry considerable risks, but there’s really no other option if he’s serious about reforming Iraq. We’ll be watching.