The always interesting Bartle Bull has an intriguing piece in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled “The Realignment of Iraq.” He writes:
The war in Iraq was always going to be won by the Iraqis, and so it has proven. But the Iraqis who have won it are on our side. …Violence continues in Iraq, but it is mostly local: revenge cycles, factionalism, crime, brutal neighborhood power plays. And it is declining. Iraqi civilian deaths in September, like U.S. military deaths, had halved since their highs earlier this year. By December they will be much lower. …Meanwhile reconciliation, which will never be complete, is happening. We saw, with the huge success of the two 2005 elections and the week-long nationwide celebrations attending the soccer victory this July, that deep unities have survived the 35-year Baath nightmare. The Kurds and Shiites can be forgiven for not wanting to reward the Sunnis immediately for the destructive insurgency that followed those 35 years of apartheid and genocide. But from the local level to the national, the huge majority of Iraqis are showing enormous tolerance. …
The biggest unifier of all currently might be the most predictable one. Help from foreigners is welcome in Iraq. …Thousands of Americans and their allies have died helping to give Iraqis this opportunity. We have shown enormous skill and bravery in helping them fight their enemies, and immeasurable goodwill in sending our young men to protect Iraqi schools, mosques and polling booths. The reason we and Iraqis are winning this war together is that its purpose is to give Iraqis what they want.
A similar piece by Bartle Bull now appears in Prospect magazine (UK). It is more audaciously headlined “Mission Accomplished.” In it he writes:
The great question in deciding whether to keep fighting in Iraq is not about the morality and self-interest of supporting a struggling democracy that is also one of the most important countries in the world. The question is whether the war is winnable and whether we can help the winning of it. The answer is made much easier by the fact that three and a half years after the start of the insurgency, most of the big questions in Iraq have been resolved. Moreover, they have been resolved in ways that are mostly towards the positive end of the range of outcomes imagined at the start of the project. The country is whole. It has embraced the ballot box. It has created a fair and popular constitution. It has avoided all-out civil war. It has not been taken over by Iran. It has put an end to Kurdish and marsh Arab genocide, and anti-Shia apartheid. It has rejected mass revenge against the Sunnis. ….
The country has ceased to be a threat to the world or its region. The only neighbours threatened by its status today are the leaders in Damascus, Riyadh and Tehran. …
The only Iraqis still fighting for more than local factional advantage and criminal dominance are the irrational actors: the Sunni fundamentalists, who number but a thousand or two men-at-arms, most of them not Iraqi. Like other Wahhabi attacks on Iraq in 1805 and 1925, the current one will end soon enough. As the maturing Iraqi state gets control of its borders, and as Iraq’s Sunni neighbours recognise that a Shia Iraq must be dealt with, the flow of foreign fighters and suicide bombers into Iraq from Syria will start to dry up. Even today, for all the bloodshed it causes, the violence hardly affects the bigger picture: suicide bombs go off, dozens of innocents die, the Shias mostly hold back and Iraq’s tough life goes on.