The truth is: it's very hard to understand what is going on in what's left of that country. I am trying to keep an open mind, and posting what slivers of good news we have. One hopes that the relatively sharp decline in violence from the insane highs of last winter means something positive. But when you take the long view, it is indeed hard to dismiss the argument of those who have seen it up-close:
Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions. Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.
Perhaps these critics will be hounded as "phony soldiers" for their insight. But I fear their analysis - let's drop the pretense and colonize the place or get the hell out - has real bite. What is the other side?
It is that lower levels of violence will somehow lead to a national government that will somehow lead to some kind of viable state. It's an argument that assumes an occupation of a decade or more. Phil Carter responds here. Money quote:
At the end of the day, they're stuck wrestling with the same question that I am: "was it worth it?" Given the state of Iraq today, and all the frustrations of the mission, I'm not surprised by their conclusion. Many military professionals I talk with quietly tell me the same thing, while continuing to evince a public persona of confidence and "can do" attitude. These officers have had enough of that dualism.
James Joyner has a helpful round-up here. Are these guys latter-day Churchills? Would Winston have been called a phony soldier? Or just a "subaltern"?