In the Arena

Meanwhile in Iraq

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There’s a major, old-fashioned U.S. offensive taking place in Diyala province, north of Baghdad. Phillip Carter has an excellent account of the operation. But the most troubling aspect of the offensive was reported in the NY Times yesterday:

Because at least half the insurgents escaped before an offensive last June, American planners deliberately kept most Iraqi units in the dark before this one, a tactic that suggests they cannot fully trust the allies who are supposed to pick up more of the fighting as American troops scale back their presence this year.

In other words, the Iraqi Security Forces remain largely unreliable and–most likely–camouflage for various militias operating as official government units. This calls into question all the talk about “training” the Iraqi “Army” and it makes pieces like this one seem superficial and frivolous. I hope the Diyala offensive succeeds–if there is any coherent U.S. military mission in Iraq, it is weeding out the remaining Al Qaeda in Iraq and other assorted Salafist extremist cells–but the long-term prospect of a coherent, peaceful Iraq still seems quite futile.

By the way, this bit of Iraq-related exit-polling is weirdly fascinating. What you make of it is a mirror of what you think is important in presidential politics–but I’d say that this is further evidence that issues, even crucial ones, take a back seat to individual personalities and character.