In the Arena

Today in Iraq…and in America

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A tour of the ethnic groups:

Excellent reporting from the Washington Post on the not very happy members of the Sunni Awakening Councils.

The local election law–the most important piece of legislation passed by the Iraqi parliament–is shot down by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the Shi’ite faction favored by the U.S. Fears that Sadrists would win many of the elections in Shi’istan are central to the veto.

Gates wants the Turks out of Iraq. But will they leave?

And on the broader war on terror:

An excellent column by David Ignatius that questions the effect of Bushian fear-mongering the past eight years.

It would be nice to hear John McCain address any of these complications. But I doubt we will. One of the bigger questions of the coming campaign is: If the U.S. economy continues to lag, will the so-called Global War on Terrorism become an economic issue? Will McCain’s proposition that “Islamic extremism is the transcendent challenge of the 21st century” be allowed to stand unquestioned? Will the American people decide that the economic dislocation caused by globalization is a bigger challenge? Will they decide that the best way to fight the global war on terror is through a turbo-charged energy independence plan?

Just asking.

Update: Dennis Ross has an interesting piece in the New Republic about what is missing from the Bush-McCain non-strategy in Iraq. I’ve had extensive conversations with people in the military and intelligence community–last summer and fall, before I was sucked into the presidential campaign–about how an American withdrawal might be leveraged for greatest political effect in Iraq and in the region. There is a fair amount of creative thinking going on (outside the White House). What Ross is proposing is a variant on how it might be done. It requires a commitment to diplomacy and skill at execution that we just haven’t seen from the Bush Administration. My guess is that a Democratic Administration will provide it; my hope is that McCain–who is a frequent visitor to the region and knows how the diplomatic process operates–would proceed in this fashion, too, despite his witless “victory/surrender” rhetoric.
Again–as I’ve written in the past–the withdrawal has to continue without pause, but without specific timetable or end date. The chances are, no matter what we do, that Iraq will be a mess…or several messes. The best hope, if the withdrawal is done cleverly and responsibly, is that these will be contained messes. We owe the Iraqis our best shot at that; but we also need them to know that we are leaving, slowly, steadily, carefully, relentlessly.