FAIR AND BALANCED….One of my longtime sparring partners insists that I post some good news about Iraq. Here it is:
The Baghdad hospitals are emptier. The Sunni Triangle — remember the deadly Sunni Triangle? — has been pacified to an amazing degree. Been following Totten at all in Ramadi? T. E. Lawrence might approve. Similar efforts are taking place among Shiites in the south, although that’s going to be harder.
This is all good news, but the problem is that I’m not sure any of it really counts as new. We all know that violence is down in a few heavily-patrolled neighborhoods of Baghdad; the question is whether we can get similar results elsewhere without the same troop concentrations (and whether it will last when we redeploy elsewhere). Likewise, the Anbar Awakening has been extensively (and favorably) reported for months; the question is whether the Sunni tribes are really cooperating with us or are merely accepting our help temporarily until they’ve eliminated their internal enemies and are ready to start killing Americans again. And, sure, there are some efforts to replicate the Anbar strategy in the south; the question is whether we’re making any serious progress on this. I haven’t seen much evidence of it.
But, look: these are all potentially positive developments, and they’ve all shown up in various mainstream news reports. War critics shouldn’t ignore them. The problem is that tidepools of encouraging news like this just don’t seem very meaningful compared to the tsunami of violence we still hear about every day, the lack of any change in the underlying dynamics driving the violence, and the complete absence of any sign of political reconciliation. And that’s not to even mention the growing refugee crisis, the massive sectarian cleansing ongoing in Baghdad, the continuing meltdown of Iraq’s infrastructure, the intra-Shiite civil war picking up steam in Basra, the lack of improvement in the Iraqi army, and the conclusion of the Jones commission that Iraq’s police force is so hopelessly sectarian it ought to be completely disbanded.
But click the links and decide for yourself.