Phillip Carter's coverage of Iraq continues to be enlightening, though his rhetorical pitch is far too kind. Consider this:
Gen. Petraeus and his brain trust have devised the best possible Plan F, given the resources available to the Pentagon and declining patience for the war at home. But the Achilles heel of this latest effort is the Maliki government. It is becoming increasingly clear to all in Baghdad that its interests—seeking power and treasure for its Shiite backers—diverge sharply from those of the U.S.-led coalition. Even if Gen. Petraeus' plan succeeds on the streets of the city, it will fail in the gilded palaces of the Green Zone. Maliki and his supporters desire no rapprochement with the Sunnis and no meaningful power-sharing arrangement with the Sunnis and the Kurds. Indeed, Maliki can barely hold his own governing coalition together, as evidenced by the Sadr bloc's resignation from the government this week and the fighting in Basra over oil and power.
The point about Achilles' heel, as you'll recall, is that he was invulnerable everyplace else. What Carter's talking about here is as if Achilles were a totally normally person. A nice guy, smart maybe, kind to kids and his "Achilles heel" was that he dies if you stab him. Political reconciliation isn't part of Petraeus-style counterinsurgency, it's the whole thing. His counterinsurgency field manual is all about trying to design military operations that can effectively support an effective political process. The "surge" is, at best, such a military operation. But if the political process isn't effective -- which, by all accounts, it isn't -- then there's nothing there.