I am hesitant to part company with Michael Rubin on this, but I am not as optimistic or committed to democratization as he is, so maybe this is to be expected.
Maliki is a disaster. The support for Hezbollah, the kissy-face routine with Ahmadinejad, and the clear illustration that he is being controlled by Sadr — not the other way around. Not only does he appear to do nothing to help us find our missing soldier, he affirmatively obstructs the effort. And he dares to refer to himself as “the general commander of the armed forces” — as if he (having taken his orders from Sadr) is empowered to give orders to our troops. And even worse for our representatives on the ground over there, he takes this outrageous action right after meeting with our National Security Adviser.
Like a lot of people who supported the Iraq invasion, I believed — and continue to believe — that the mission is to kill and capture terrorists and vanquish their state sponsors, and that Iraq is one phase (the second phase) in a much wider war. Bringing democracy to the Middle East is something I hope can happen someday, but it is a generational transformation and it continues to be nothing but a theory that democracy itself (much less the messy transformation thereto) is an effective weapon against jihadism (which has been shown to thrive in democracies). I don’t deny that democratization has been part of Bush’s overall Wilsonian policy, but I never thought democratizing Iraq was a policy priority because I never thought it was something that could be accomplished in short order in an Islamic society. Now, it seems to be the policy priority.
This is a long-winded way of saying that many of us who support the war do not care whether Iraq is democratized quickly, and therefore do not see why propping up its current, Iran-friendly government should be driving our policy. (The Bush administration did not seem to think it was too important that the United Arab Emirates is not a democracy.)
If Maliki continues to be the face of what “victory” means, according to the administration, in Iraq, then it is going to be impossible to sustain support for the war. And I say that as a supporter.