Now he gets it wrong up front:
To the extent that the surge has worked militarily, it is largely because of what Iraqis have done by themselves for themselves — Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders rising up against pro-Qaeda Sunni elements, taking back control of their villages and towns, and aligning themselves with U.S. forces to do so. Some Shiites are now doing the same.Well he's right that it's about what the Iraqis have done but he's wrong about what they have done. In reality the surge looks like a success because the Shia have completed the ethnic cleansing in Baghdad. Friedman then shows an amazing grasp of the obvious:
If you see that — if you see Iraqi politicians surprising you by doing things they’ve never done before, like forging a self-sustaining political compromise and building the fabric of a unified country, then you can allow yourself some optimism.Well even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And this is so Friedman:
So far, though, too many of Iraq’s leaders continue to act their part — looking out for themselves, their clans, their hometowns, their militias and their sects, and using the Iraqi treasury and ministries as looting grounds for personal or sectarian gains.
As a result, what you have today is more of a spotty truce, with U.S. soldiers still caught in the middle. That is a quiet strategy, not an exit strategy.
Study the travel itineraries of Iraq’s principal factional leaders after the Petraeus hearings. Did they all rush to Baghdad to try to work out their differences? No. Many of them took off for abroad.
As one U.S. official in Baghdad pointed out to me last week, “at no point” since the testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker “have you had the four key Iraqi leaders in the same country at the same time.” They saw the hearings as buying them more time, and so they took it.
It still feels to me as if we’ve made Iraq just safe enough for its politicians to be obstinate, corrupt or reckless on our dime. Even the moderate Kurds must have developed some kind of death wish, allowing their radicals to simultaneously provoke both Turkey and Iran and risking the island of real decency the Kurds have built in the north.What a pompous asshole. Sorry Tom, you are still full of shit - just like when you supported Bush's cluster fuck in Mesopotamia.
General Petraeus’s strategy is to keep trying to knit the different militias and tribal fragments in Iraq together into a national army and government so we can shrink our presence. I truly wish him well. But I don’t see it happening without two things: some shock therapy — like a firm U.S. withdrawal signal — to spur Iraqi leaders, and a regional settlement. That is, without resolving the cold war in the Middle East that now pits America on one side and Iran and Syria on the other, I’m not sure you can stabilize Iraq, Lebanon or Israel-Palestine.
Letting everyone know that we’re not staying there forever would be the best way to catalyze both local and regional negotiations and give us something we don’t now have: leverage. Just letting Iraq recede into the back pages does not serve our interests.
If we’re going to just forget about Iraq, let’s do it when we’re gone — not when we’re still there.