Political Solutions

If you’re like me, you’ve been noting the recent decline in violence in Iraq with some cautious optimism. U.S. troop deaths are down, for example, and civilian deaths have dropped so much that it’s actually crippling the Iraqi cemetary industry. Things are still way worse than they were in 2004 and 2005, but the trend lines seem to be moving in good directions.

But all that’s useless without a political solution. I know that’s a Democrat cliche, but it’s true. In fact, part of the “surge” has been a 180-degree shift in our political strategy. Instead of a top-down effort to promote national reconciliation (the old strategy), we’ve been working with tribal chiefs at the local level, arming the Sunnis, etc., all in an effort to build political institutions from the bottom-up.

Unsurprisingly, burning the candle at both ends means that we’re not getting anywhere:

The GAO report, delivered to a House of Representatives subcommittee, cited a major drop in the number of enemy attacks on U.S.-led coalition troops and Iraqi security forces.

There were about 3,000 such attacks in September, compared to some 5,300 in June, the report said.

Despite the drop, however, government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has made only “limited progress” toward passing legislation designed to foster national reconciliation, the report said.

None of the most crucial bills have been approved, it said. These include legislation that would ensure the equitable distribution of petroleum revenues and lift a ban on government jobs for Iraqis who were low- and middle-level members of the former ruling Baathist Party.

The report noted some progress in reconciliation at the local level, including in Sunni-dominated Anbar Province.

But at the national level “sectarian factions within the Iraqi government ministries continue to undermine reconciliation efforts” and use their positions “to maintain power,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Turkey has all but delcared war on the Kurds. Since Turkey’s a member of NATO, we’re sort of obligated by treaty to join the war on their side. Except, of course, we’re already at war on the Kurds’ side. So we’ve basically committed to fighting ourselves in Iraq. Well done, America!