Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Top Ten Myths About Iraq

Juan Cole gives us his Top Ten Myths About Iraq 2007 (paraphrased):

  1. The surge is responsible for the drop in violence.
  2. Iraq is now "calm" and Iraqis want Americans to stay, even if grudgingly.
  3. The northern part of Iraq is calm and thriving economically.
  4. The Sunni leaders who are being paid by the U.S. military to fight Al Qaeda are reconciling with Iraqi Shiites and the Shiite central government.
  5. Slowly but surely, Iraq is meeting U.S.-imposed benchmarks for progress.
  6. Iraqi women have been liberated by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent U.S. occupation.
  7. Iran was supplying deadly explosive material to Sunni extremists.
  8. The surge stopped the sectarian violence in Baghdad.
  9. Religious and political reconciliation has begun and is making progress.
  10. The American electorate has lost interest in Iraq and no longer considers it a top issue.
Needless to say, Prof. Cole has his detractors -- Andrew Sullivan calls it "clinical denial":
For some, the war is over, victory has been achieved, and the only task now is to elect a new Decider to conduct a victory parade. Sadly, this seems to me to be verging on clinical denial. There is no question that General Petraeus, for the first time, has instituted a competent, if ad hoc occupation, by doing pragmatic deals in local areas and regions, constructing massive walls in Baghdad to keep warring sects apart, effectively bribing other areas with new investments and providing sufficient troops in some places to maintain a lull in the massive bloodletting that the US invasion unleashed. But in the next few months, the troop levels will be reduced, or the US military will be broken. They key to sustaining a national peace in Iraq is some level of sectarian integration in the police and army, some reconciliation between national Sunni and Shiite political parties, some resolution of the remaining trouble spots in the north, such as Kirkuk, and some kind of political leadership able to reach across the bloody divide. It is very hard to see any of these things happening.

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