Andrew Exum One of Andrew Exum's guest bloggers councils against reading too much into the the recent spake of bombings in Iraq:
Despite all these bombings, we have yet to see signs that the death spiral of sectarian retaliation has returned or is about to return. This is a point that General Odierno has made with some regularity. The attacks in and of themselves are terrible, but not necessarily strategically significant unless they trigger waves of reprisals that Iraqi forces cannot control. If there are signs of this occurring, it doesn’t seem like they’re being noticed. Instead we get statements from al-Sadr after the recent attacks calling for restraint. Obviously we can’t take that restraint for granted, but that still seems qualitatively better than the days of 2006.
In any case, even if we’re concerned about some degradation of security, what are we supposed to do? A number of folks, including Stephen Biddle, have counseled slowing the pace of withdrawal, but to exactly what end? Iraq’s forces may not be the best in the world and Maliki may be overconfident, but it seems to me that what the Iraqis need is more assistance in resolving some underlying conflicts that can drive violence (Sunni integration into government, Kurdish territorial and oil disputes) and developing the governmental and economic institutions necessary to sustain the state. It’s not clear to me that continuing our troop presence in Iraq at its current level and disposition is still required to advance those goals.
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