Hope for Iraq

Optimism about Iraq: it’s not just for neocons anymore! From this week’s issue of The Economist:

After all the blood and blunders, people are right to be sceptical when good news is announced from Iraq. Yet it is now plain that over the past several months, while Americans have been distracted by their presidential primaries, many things in Iraq have at long last started to go right.

This improvement goes beyond the fall in killing that followed General David Petraeus’s “surge”. Iraq’s government has gained in stature and confidence. Thanks to soaring oil prices it is flush with money. It is standing up to Iraq’s assorted militias and asserting its independence from both America and Iran. The overlapping wars—Sunni against American, Sunni against Shia and Shia against Shia—that harrowed Iraq after the invasion of 2003 have abated. The country no longer looks in imminent danger of flying apart or falling into everlasting anarchy. In September 2007 this newspaper supported the surge not because we had faith in Iraq but only in the desperate hope that the surge might stop what was already a bloodbath from becoming even worse (see article). The situation now is different: Iraq is still a mess, but something approaching a normal future for its people is beginning to look achievable.

The article proceeds to explain the improvements in greater detail, and then concludes:

In highlighting the improved conditions in Iraq we do not mean to justify The Economist‘s support of the invasion of 2003 (see article). Too many lives have been shattered for that. History will still record that the invasion and occupation have been a debacle. Iraqis even now live under daily threat of violent death: hundreds are killed each month. They remain woefully short of the necessities of life, such as jobs, clean water and electricity. Iraq’s government is gaining confidence faster than competence. It is still fractious, and in many places corrupt.

Nor does it follow that a turn for the better necessarily validates John McCain’s insistence on America staying indefinitely. A safer Iraq might make Barack Obama’s plan to pull out most American troops within 16 months more feasible, though at the moment a precipitate withdrawal looks foolish. But to guard the fragile improvements, the key for America must be flexibility. Both candidates have to keep their options open. If America’s next president gets Iraq wrong because he has boxed himself in during the campaign, all the recent gains may be squandered and Iraq will slide swiftly back into misery and despair. That would be to fail twice over.

More from The Economist here and here. (Hat tip: InstaPundit.)

26 Responses to “Hope for Iraq”

  1. Anti-war critic says:

    Shit, SHIT!

  2. copndor says:

    I’m with stupid ^

    “Nor does it follow that a turn for the better necessarily validates John McCain’s insistence on America staying indefinitely. A safer Iraq might make Barack Obama’s plan to pull out most American troops within 16 months more feasible”

  3. Joe Mama says:

    Evidently.

    “Nor does it follow that a turn for the better necessarily validates John McCain’s insistence on America staying indefinitely. A safer Iraq might make Barack Obama’s plan to pull out most American troops within 16 months more feasible, though at the moment a precipitate withdrawal looks foolish.

  4. copndor says:

    Apparently I’m with a lot of stupids. If Obama were elected, he would not be in power for another half a year. I don’t know how long your moments are Mr. Mama, but to say “at the moment a precipitate withdrawal looks foolish” would not seem to apply to six months from now.

  5. Joe Mama says:

    Tell that to all the stupids who want to leave Iraq immediately regardless of the consequences.

  6. Mad Max, Esquire says:

    Obama has stated “We should be as careful getitng out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.” I don’t believe Obama wants to be Gerald Ford with images of helicopters lifting Americans off of the rooftops in the Green Zone.

    If there is a way to transition power – real power – to the Iraqis and get the bulk of our troops out of there in a way that doesn’t undermine stability in Iraq, I’m all for it. But spending $12 billion a month for perpetuity to keep Sunnis and Shi’ites from killing each other is not an option. Sorry. But Americans are fed up with being Iraq’s caretaker no matter how things are on the ground there.

  7. Joe Mama says:

    Obama has also stated prior to the surge: “I cannot in good conscience support this escalation. It is a policy which has already been tried and a policy which has failed. Just this morning, I had veterans of the Iraq war visit my office to explain to me that this surge concept is, in fact, no different from what we have repeatedly tried, but with 20,000 troops, we will not in any imaginable way be able to accomplish any new progress.”

    When exactly the surge was tried prior to mid-2007 is anyone’s guess. Obviously, Gen. Petraeus wasn’t one of the nameless “veterans of the Iraq war” from whom Obama seeks counsel, and Obama was quite wrong that we would “not in any imaginable way be able to accomplish any new progress.”

  8. Angrier and Angrier says:

    “When exactly the surge was tried prior to mid-2007 is anyone’s guess.”

    During the elections in Iraq, Mr. Revisionist Historian.

    As for “new progress,” what does that mean? Sure, the violence is down. That’s because Sadr’s army left Sadr City and is planning a new offensive, per Sadr himself. Until the Iraqis are able to govern themselves without $12 billion a month from the U.S., I am skeptical of any proclamations of “progress.”

  9. Joe Mama says:

    “When exactly the surge was tried prior to mid-2007 is anyone’s guess.”

    During the elections in Iraq, Mr. Revisionist Historian.

    Then you obviously don’t know how many troops we had in Iraq during the Iraqi elections, before the surge, and after. “Mr. Revisionist Historian” indeed.

    As for “new progress,” what does that mean? Sure, the violence is down. That’s because Sadr’s army left Sadr City and is planning a new offensive, per Sadr himself. Until the Iraqis are able to govern themselves without $12 billion a month from the U.S., I am skeptical of any proclamations of “progress.”

    Well, at least you’ve admitted that violence is down (right after breathlessly asking what new progress has been made) . . . that must’ve been difficult for you. And the notion that violence in Iraq is at its lowest point in 4 years only because “Sadr’s army left Sadr City” is of course absurd, as if the Iraqi army didn’t also drive the Mahdi army out of Basra and seize the ports from Iranian-backed militias, or hasn’t also driven al-Qaeda out of Anbar, Baghdad and Diyala provinces.

    Nope, no progress at all.

    Look at it this way, A&A, if/when Iraqi’s are able to govern themselves without $12B a month from the U.S. — which, BTW, is a lesser annual % of GDP than almost every other prior war — you can always save face by claiming that it’s just because Bush et al. finally did what you were advocating all along.

  10. Joe Mama says:

    “When exactly the surge was tried prior to mid-2007 is anyone’s guess.”

    During the elections in Iraq, Mr. Revisionist Historian.

    And you also have no clue about the changes in tactics and ROE that accompanied the surge, which were one of its key aspects.

  11. Angrier and Angrier says:

    Joe Mama-

    I will direct your attention to Afghanistan. That has long been touted as a success, even though no political progress has been made there. Now, the Taliban are successfully attacking U.S. managed prisons and taking over villages.

    Putting more troops on the ground to intimidate people out of fighting isn’t “progress” if nothing is being accomplished in other areas. Iraq doesn’t have a working government. It doesn’t have a working infrastructure. And I could give a rat’s ass about this annual percentage of GDP argument you are making. The difference between this war and those wars is WE ARE BORROWING billions of dollars from China and Saudi Arabia to pay for it. For the other wars, Americans paid for them through bonds and taxes.

  12. Sandy Underpants says:

    Joe Mama, just declare victory again. At least it will make you feel better, and congratulations again while I’m at it. You were right all along.

  13. Joe Mama says:

    It’s simply a lie to say that Iraq doesn’t have a working gov’t. It’s obviously far from perfect, and the Sunni parliamentary bloc has only recently begun negotiations to join the Shiite majority, but the fact remains that the de-Baathification law, law, amnesty law, oil sharing law, provincial elections and powers law, and other political benchmarks were not passed by a non-existent gov’t. Ignore that if you want, but don’t be surprised when those of us following the action on the ground there laugh off your talking points.

    And I could just as easily give a rat’s ass about borrowing money to pay for the war given how little of the annual GDP it eats up (but I do, however — I’d rather see Iraq show up in the traditional budget process rather than be funded by “supplementals,” but then I have much bigger fish to fry about how the feddle gummint spends its money than the Iraq war).

    Sandy, just keep amusing yourself with shiny objects . . .

  14. Alasdair says:

    Joe Mama – you just classified Sandy Underpants into the same group as Brendan – and that’s just not fair to Brendan !

    (grin)

  15. Sandy Underpants says:

    You are more concerned with the feddle gumminit spending money (being wasteful?) for the benefit of Americans than you are the fact that the US Government will have spent at least 2 trillion dollars when a war, almost everyone considers unneccessary, is “won”. An action that replaced a secular dictator who posed no threat to the US, or his neighbors, with an Islamic Theocracy (the type of government Bin Laden wanted in Iraq before 9/11/01).

    If Iraq has had a functioning democratic government for 3 years now, and a trained security force of a million strong… Then why are we losing a soldier per day still in Iraq?

    This is the uninformed Republican base, folks. If they had a brain they wouldn’t be so dangerous.

  16. JO says:

    An action that replaced a secular dictator who posed no threat to the US, or his neighbors

    I had to laugh at that statement. Regardless of whether you were/are for the war or not, that is simply not a true statement. Now, what the level of threat he was can be debated, but to simply dismiss Sadaam as some simple simon dictator is being insincere.

  17. Sandy Underpants says:

    Saudi Arabai, Kuwait, Iran, Syria, and Turkey all opposed the war with Iraq. Those are Saddam’s neighbors, and they didn’t feel threatened by him.

    As for being a threat to the United States, how was Hussein a threat? He had no chemical or biological or nuclear weapons and had no army. His longest range missile went 80 miles. And Condeleeza Rice and Colin Powell held a press conference in May of 2001 stating that Saddam is not a threat and is 100% contained.

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article6456.htm

    If you were scared of Hussein you must not sleep at night knowing North Korea has increased it’s nuclear missile arsenal 400% during Bush’s presidency and they have missiles that can reach the United States.

  18. Joe Mama says:

    You are more concerned with the feddle gumminit spending money (being wasteful?) for the benefit of Americans than you are the fact that the US Government will have spent at least 2 trillion dollars when a war, almost everyone considers unneccessary, is “won”.

    Since I completely disagree with your premise (i.e., that all or even most gov’t spending necessarily benefits Americans), then the answer is obviously yes, I would much rather my tax dollars go towards supporting the effort in Iraq than some useless special interest pork project, farm subsidies, etc. Hell, every year the federal gov’t on average cannot even account for an amount equal to what it would cost to fund the war in Iraq for 3 months.

    But yeah, I’m the one who’s uninformed and brainless. Riiight. Why don’t you shovel some more bullsh*t about how Kuwait, Saddam’s neighbor that was invaded by him just over a decade ago, could not have been threatened by him

  19. Alasdair says:

    Silly Joe Mama – how could Saddam Hussein have threatened one of his own provinces ? (Since that is what Kuwait was, right ?)

  20. Joe Mama says:

    Hehe . . . obviously, Saddam invaded Kuwait over a decade before the 2nd Iraq war, not just over a decade from now.

  21. Sandy Underpants says:

    The war with Iraq is the biggest Pork Barrel project in American history– 50% of the money “for the war with Iraq” is diverted (paid) to private corporations ‘working’ in Iraq.

    The point about Iran and Kuwait asking to not invade Iraq is that Iran was at war with Iraq for 13 years and Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, but they were both wary of the likely catastrophic ramifications of what Gulf War II could mean for the region. They were right.

  22. Joe Mama says:

    Iran, Kuwait, etc. may very well have been wary about the ramifications of a US invasion of Iraq, but that is obviously quite different from saying they opposed such an invasion because Saddam Hussein wasn’t a threat to the region, which was your previous point, which remains highly dubious.

  23. Angrier and Angrier says:

    Joe Mama-

    It doesn’t matter what you think about how much the U.S. borrows. It matters what foreign investors who buy our bonds think. And right now, they think we are fiscally irresponsible. If this continues, imagine what will happen to this country if China and Saudi Arabia slow their buying of our debt and begin selling off dollars. You think prices have risen so far? You haven’t seen anything yet.

  24. David K. says:

    Hey Alasdair, American cities are more dangerous than Iraq?

    I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had any problems with car bombings in my neighborhood or town lately…

  25. Alasdair says:

    David – as I understand it, you live in or near a town like Zakho, Iraq … small, out of the way, not particularly interesting to the Mafia or the various gangs … so you live in a peaceful area …

    If you lived in Philadelphia, with its annual homicide rate in the multiple hundreds, or in way too many US Cities with annual homicide rates in the hundreds, then you would be less glib in your unfeeling crass “I told you so !” comment …

    The people carrying out these homicide bombings in Iraq are the dupes of cowards … they do not carry out the beliefs of the Koran …

    Part of the reason you have not had “any problems with car bombings in my neighborhood or town lately…” is precisely because other folk are fighting to keep it that way on *your* behalf (and on mine, and Brendan’s, and Loyette’s and …) …

    As a resident of a most quiet residential mid-sized town in LA County, I *have* found an assassin’s kit in my front yard several years ago (small handgun, plus ammo, plus a disassembled automatic rifle, plus its ammo) … the type of people who use such things don’t particularly care where they operate …

    David – Kipling said it well …

    “Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep

    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;”

    So feel free to continue your cheap shots at Bush and Petraeus and the rest … because the rest of us know that we can sleep peacefully because *they* exist to make the decisions that have to be made … and they don’t take the Obama or Chamberlain easy way out …