Iraq and Andrew Sullivan: 'The Beltway doesn't do reality very well'

I’ve been tough on Andrew Sullivan in the past. He represents, for me at least, one of the eternal conundrums of recent U.S. history when it comes to Iraq: how could so many smart people in the media have so eagerly embraced their role as the useful idiots of the Bush administration? Group think? War fever? Careerism? That being said, his analysis of Iraq right now is pretty good; ie, it resembles my own observations after spending the last month and half there. Huzzah.

In fact, recent events suggest a move backwards as the entropy of the Arab and Muslim world reasserts itself. Sectarian violence is up. Little integration of Sunnis in the largely Shiite “national” military has occurred. Core questions of Sunni representation and central issues of territory – such as the Kurdish-Arab fight over Kirkuk – remain unresolved…[SNIP]

All the surge did was provide a face-saving way for the US to create enough temporary security to leave. Given the chaos of the first four years of occupation, this was an achievement. But the achievement was in preventing total humiliation for the US, not anything close to victory or success stable enough to leave with anything but another civil war as the likeliest outcome.

As I posted recently, I think that’s what the surge will end up being about–as the t-shirt says, RETURN WITH HONOR. The surge, in the long run, should be seen as much–or more–as what it meant inside the Beltway as what it meant for Iraq. The main political successes of the surge were in Washington, not Baghdad.

Regarding the situation in Iraq right now, I don’t think violence is going to get as bad it was from 2005-2008. But I do think an argument can be made that the civil war in Iraq is still ongoing, albeit with a much lower level of violence. There’s a steady drip-drip of executions, assassinations, round ups, and bombings.  The recent political hijinks that have  delayed the national elections are likely to spark another uptick in sectarian violence. And if the Sunnis are really pissed at the election results–and there’s a high probability of that happening; they’ve been more or less pissed at every step of the way–the consequences will be felt by Iraqis in the years ahead. Remember, the civil war really kicked off right after the first national election in Dec. 2005, an election that Sunnis more or less rejected. The rejectionism of a so called moderate like Sunni MP Tareq Al Hashimi does not bode well.

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About michaelhastings

Journalist
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