HOW ARE WE DOING IN IRAQ?….The price of hand grenades is going up in Baghdad. Shortly after the war they were five for a buck, while today they can set you back as much as $2 or $3 apiece.

In an upcoming article in the Journal of Democracy, Adeed Dawisha suggests that this is good news: it means that arms are harder to get for casual terrorists. On the other hand, $3 is still pretty cheap, and goes a long way toward explaining the precarious security situation in Iraq.

Overall, Dawisha makes a familiar argument: things are better in Iraq than you’d think from reading the daily paper. I’m not sure how convincing I found this, especially given paragraphs like this:

In fact, the most encouraging sign for the long haul is the sheer frequency with which Iraqis are using such key democratic terms as elections, parliament, human rights, press freedom, minority rights, and the like as debates over the country?s future proceed. In the wide-ranging discourse now being heard both publicly and privately in Iraq, the need for an elected legislature and government has become almost a foregone conclusion.

Maybe there’s something to this, but everyone says they like elections. It’s a lot less clear whether they really do, and I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in superficial things like this. As my guests on Sunday agreed, it’s always the second election that’s the critical one.

But maybe I’m being unfair. I admit that I was a bit turned off near the beginning of the article when Dawisha tried to make the case that the guerrilla war isn’t really all that bad because, after all, most Iraqis don’t support the insurgency and “Most of the attacks on coalition forces in fact have occurred in an area that is geographically and demographically narrow.” This is special pleading. Of course the guerrillas are only a small part of the population, and it’s common knowledge that their activity is mostly limited to the Sunni Triangle around Baghdad. That’s hardly good news.

Still, his article makes some good points, even if I don’t find it wholly convincing, and he acknowledges the problems and mistakes as well as the successes. If you’re interested in an overview of Iraq that tries to get above the usual day-to-day reporting, head on over and read it.

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