Whatever David Petraeus says next month - and we know it's going to be a glowing report of massive success - the reality of Iraq endures. That reality is that there is no Iraq. The "government" is paralyzed between sectarian factions none of which wants a national, political settlement any time soon. Money quote from a helpful Christian Science Monitor piece:
"We are frankly in the midst of the worst crisis," says Fakhri Karim, a close adviser to Messrs. Barzani and Talabani who also publishes the independent Al Mada newspaper. He says he doubts the Friday meeting will find any resolution because of the new political tussle with the Iraqi Accordance Front.
"Most of the political blocs have failed to operate within the framework of national consensus. They can't even properly formulate their positions and proposals, let alone realize the very serious dangers that surround everyone."
The gravity of the situation was underscored by several officials. "We have a governmental crisis. Our people expect better performance," said Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
And since Saturday, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker has been shuttling between Iraq's top leaders, but an embassy spokesperson said this was not necessarily indicative of a crisis.
"The surge has done well in making a difference in security conditions. But it isn't a light switch for reconciliation; there are no quick fixes to years of bitterness and violence," he said.
A sign of that lack of a quick fix is the fact that in the South, the Brits are preparing to hand over power to the Shiite militias. They do not compose an entity with any real connection to "Iraq." And the main general tasked with training Iraqis for security cannot find any leaders who aren't already coopted by the sect they belong to.
"You can't grow a force this fast and have the right number of qualified leaders," Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik told The Associated Press on Saturday. “You can’t do it. This is a problem now, and it will be a problem for a good number of years."
General Dubik said nonsectarianism was "much harder" to instill than teaching soldiers how to fight.
We're either stuck there for a decade of grueling police work in a slow-motion civil war, or we can get out. We should obviously get out - as shrewdly and as carefully as we can.