The dreadful result of the Iraq vote.
In some officials' eyes, we seem always to be just one turn away from the path to success. Saddam Hussein is captured—we've turned a corner. Sovereignty is handed over to Iraq—we've turned a corner. The first elections are held—we've turned a corner. The constitution is passed—we've turned a corner. And now is this the next step: We attack and destroy the jihadist sanctuaries in Syria—we turn a corner?
What happens with the constitution is not a trivial exercise. The whole point of a constitution is to create a consensually acceptable framework in which politics can function. The real question, which will be answered in the next couple of months, is whether the combatants in this phase of the Iraqi war—the Sunnis vs. the Shiites, mainly—are ready to agree on a framework. If they are, if their disputes can be ironed out, there will still be many problems and much violence, but at least there will be a "road map" (to borrow a metaphor from another Middle Eastern dispute). If they're not ready, then the new order and the constitution it embodies will only trigger harsher violence and a deeper war.
Fred Kaplan is Slate's "War Stories" columnist and author of the book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Photograph of Condoleezza Rice by Charles Dharapak/AP Photo.