Way Ahead of the NYT
Had you been reading Talisman Gate three months ago, then you would have already known all about what the New York Times reported on today:
'U.S. Scales Back Political Goals for Iraqi Unity'
There have been signs that American influence over Iraqi politics is dwindling after the recent improvements in security — which remain incomplete, as shown by a deadly bombing Friday in Baghdad. While Bush officials once said they aimed to secure “reconciliation” among Iraq’s deeply divided religious, ethnic and sectarian groups, some officials now refer to their goal as “accommodation.”
“We can’t pass their legislation,” a senior American official in Baghdad said. “We can’t make them like each other. We can’t even make them talk to each other. Well, sometimes we can. But we can help them execute their budget.”
Ambassador Crocker drew a distinction between the effectiveness of the American military buildup in quelling violence and the influence the United States could bring to bear at a political level.
“The political stuff does not lend itself to sending out a couple of battalions to help the Iraqi’s pass legislation,” he said.
This is what I wrote back in August:
I’ll say it: the Americans are irrelevant to political events in Iraq. They may be arming the insurgents for the time being, but these murderers may have to be the ones who need to be airlifted out when the Americans eventually withdraw in order to dodge reprisals. It’s quite a prospect to consider: former insurgents being resettled in Minnesota.
The Americans may want to bend over backwards to appease the Sunni politicos, and the Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian patrons who fund them, but that means very little in Baghdad’s intense political universe unless the Shiites play along, and why should they do so once everyone begins to realize that the Sunni insurgency is faltering?
Leave politics to the Iraqis, and get on with the job of defeating terrorists. That is the fastest way to get the Sunnis to sober up and come to terms with their demographic numbers and their past and current shame as champions of a violent approach in dealing with their next-door neighbors. Consequent Sunni moderation will achieve two things: the Shiites will be less likely to seek Iran’s counsel and protection in preparation for the “worst case scenario” of a regional Sunni onslaught. The second consequence is an earlier, and more honorable, American withdrawal.
Here's another trend that the NYT writes-up today and that was discussed here three months ago:
'As Democrats See Security Gains in Iraq, Tone Shifts'
But the changing situation suggests for the first time that the politics of the war could shift in the general election next year, particularly if the gains continue. While the Democratic candidates are continuing to assail the war — a popular position with many of the party’s primary voters — they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to attack the party’s nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking faith in the American military.
Lately, as the killing in Baghdad and other areas has declined, the Democratic candidates have been dwelling less on the results of the troop escalation than on the lack of new government accords in Iraq — a tonal shift from last summer and fall when American military commanders were preparing to testify before Congress asking for more time to allow the surge to show results.
This is a delicate matter. By saying the effects of the troop escalation have not led to a healthier political environment, the candidates are tacitly acknowledging that the additional troops have, in fact, made a difference on the ground — a viewpoint many Democratic voters might not embrace.
And this is what I had also written back in August:
Here’s a current political fact: Iraq influences American politics far more than America influences Iraqi politics. The Democrats chose to make Iraq their principal issue against Bush and the Republicans, but for these talking points to find traction among easily-distracted news consumers, they’d need to deploy a macabre arsenal of scary catchphrases: “Iraq is lost”, “civil war”, “ethnic cleansing”, “this war cannot be won”, and “mounting casualties”.
But, it ain’t so: casualties, by every calculation, are falling off. Even more important that casualty tallies is the number of violent incidents, and those are really falling off. Hence, it is hard for most, including Senator Levin, not to acknowledge the positive developments of the surge.
So, on to Plan B: the labyrinth of Iraqi politics. Here’s where the Democrats lose their way and their audience: America’s attention span is not going to follow them into the machinations of the Consensus bloc and Ayad Allawi’s ambitions. They don’t care whether Sunnis join the Iraqi cabinet or flee on magic carpets to the mythical Waqwaq Island; and certainly all this stuff doesn’t matter if Bush climbs the podium and tells them that America is whipping Al-Qaeda’s ass, and has the numbers to prove it.