Puzzling Analysis


This Karen DeYoung article in today's Post leads off on a really weird note:

Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some "shared beliefs" that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.

DeYoung goes on to provide an excellent description of military efforts to assess the state of Iraqi public opinion and to explain what we know about it. But the big mystery here concerns the official analysis cited here in the second paragraph. In particular, it this silly, implausible spin or is this project being overseen by idiots? There's just no way you could construe widespread, cross-sectarian belief that the departure of US forces is crucial for national reconciliation as supporting a policy of a decades-long American military involvement in Iraq.

You very well might characterize this as "good news" since it indicates that there's at least some chance that a program of withdrawal would boost political reconciliation, but it's certainly not "good news" for the policy we're actually pursuing.

Meanwhile, it's a reminder that the policy we're pursuing is unlikely to accomplish its nominal goal of creating a stable, democratic government for Iraq. Basically, that objective is incompatible with the objective of sustaining the mission in Iraq. Insofar as the Iraqi government is responsive to public opinion, it will ask our troops to leave.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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