In the Arena

Today in Iraq

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Two of the talking points regurgitated by Bush Administration–and neoconservative–spokespeople over the past year have been: Muqtada al-Sadr’s strength is waning and the Iraqi Security Forces are getting stronger. As with almost everything that involves U.S. Iraq analysis, those projections have proved to be equal parts wishful thinking and horse manure as today NY Times confirms.

I’m sure General Petraeus had his rose-colored metric slides–more Iraqi troops trained etc.–all ready for his presentation to Congress next week. It’ll be interesting to see what he has to say now. I do hope the Senators will bloviate less and ask more pointed questions than they did last time. Specifically:
*What exactly is the U.S. interest in a fight between Shi’ites? Are you planning to deploy U.S. troops in Basra or any of the other southern cities?
*Why should we take sides between two militias, the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, each funded by Iran?
*How deep is the Badr infiltration of the Iraqi Army? Why do most U.S. commanders on the ground refuse to share their mission plans with their Iraqi counterparts in advance?
*How do you create a national army if you don’t have a functioning national government or, for that matter, a nation?
*With the foreign fighters and Al Qaeda largely contained–one last big battle looms in Mosul–just what exactly is the U.S. mission in Iraq?
*Do you believe that Iraq is a good location for the permanent U.S. bases that the Bush Administration and John McCain clearly desire?

Update: I’m always amused by commenters and bloggers who say that Klein is finally saying this or doing that–or that Klein will never say something in the print edition. My guess is that most of these are people who never read the print edition. If they had, they’d know that I’ve been slamming the neoconservative middle east fantasy since before the war–and they’d also know that I had predicted many of the things we’re seeing now in Basra after returning from Iraq last summer–in the print edition of the magazine. And I will continue to do so, regularly, in the future.

And furthermore: Those who would question my criticism of the Democrats for painting a darker picture than is necessary should check out the entire paragraph, which has raised the hackles of Ramesh Ponnuru and other conservatives:

This is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what’s wrong with America than what’s right. When Ronald Reagan touted “Morning in America” in the 1980s, Dick Gephardt famously countered that it was near midnight “and getting darker all the time.” This is ironic and weirdly self-defeating, since the liberal message of national improvement is profoundly more optimistic, and patriotic, than the innate conservative pessimism about the perfectibility of human nature. Obama’s hopemongering is about as American as a message can get — although, in the end, it is mostly about our ability to transcend our imperfections rather than the effortless brilliance of our diversity, informality and freedom-propelled creativity.