the progress being made at the local level often undermines the stated goal of creating a unified, stable, democratic Iraq
you have to come up with, you know, an example. Maybe in the next sentence! Podesta et al. argue that Iraqi national reconciliation--and "constructive" intervention by regional powers--will only come when America withdraws. That may be true (though it seems tendentiously optimistic). But we can always withdraw. In the meantime, how does "progress at the local level," including "declines in the overall level of violence," actually hurt? Without that argument, the piece looks like positioning. ...
Update: Kevin Drum tries to supply the missing paragraphs here, here and here. Maybe you will find them convincing. The basic issue is whether empowering Sunni tribes outside the new Iraqi state eventually promotes a stable reconciliation or a future civil war. ... But attempting "integration" of Sunnis directly into the Maliki government wasn't working very well, was it? Likewise, withdrawing and hoping for Shiite benevolence--and benign intervention by "regional powers"--seems pie-eyed. Attempting to achieve some sort of stable balance of local power, on the other hand, has worked before in this sort of situation, no? It seems worth a shot, especially if the ongoing cost in American lives gets reduced to a tolerable level. ...
P.S.: Via Drum, here is Petraeus adviser David Kilcullen's explanation of the current strategy. ...
Update: Robert Farley of Lawyers Guns & Money does his part to fill the void here. The trouble with his argument, something he more or less admits, is that the current central government wasn't making much progress obtaining a "monopoly" on the use of force before the Bush strategy shift and it's unlikely to obtain such a monopoly if we withdraw. Even if you measure progress by the "stated goal" of "a unified, stable, democratic Iraq"--instead of, more realistically, by the goal of leaving the most favorable situation behind that we can--it's not clear that the best chance of ultimately constituting that unified government (with a monopoly on violence) isn't first to rebalance sectarian military strength on the ground, enabling Iraq's warring groups to then cut a stable deal down the road. ... 6:49 P.M. link
The other obvious hack speculation: Hillary tanks in Iowa and N.H.. Obama, Edwards too liberal and inexperienced. Electability. Late entry. Exciting convention. Gore. Take it away. ... 6:20 P.M.
Ayes of Newt: The normally sound Tom Edsall contrasts Speakers Gingrich and Pelosi and finds that Pelosi, "strangely enough, has won enactment of more legislation than her flamboyant predecessor." He notes that Pelosi's achievements include:
an increase in the minimum wage, lobbying and ethics reform, Gulf Coast reconstruction assistance, and substantial expansion of college financial aid.
I concede that the minimum wage increase is an achievement. The others are yawners. Meanwhile, by the end of Gingrich's first two years as Speaker, 1) the budget was heading toward a surplus after years of deficits; and 2) a once-in-a generation welfare reform had been signed into law--a big attempt to tackle the "underclass" problem, the first time a federal entitlement had been repealed, in a bill that also included substantial changes in child support enforcement, immigrant benefits, and social security disability for children. ... Oh, and the minimum wage got increased under Gingrich too, also before his first two years were up. ...
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