Here I am reading David Sanger's New York Times account of the latest twists and turns in the White House's Iraq policy, and eventually he's compelled to mention that "circumventing a central government that the United States itself set up is unlikely to prove easy." Similarly, we hear that "Bush and his commanders weighed whether to reward the Sunnis with early provincial elections, restoring a degree of political power to them." This, though, needs to be followed up with the revelation that "calling elections is no longer within the power of the United States."

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the article, however, was an anonymous Defense Department official using the term "bottom-up reconciliation." I see through Google that the term is a big hit already on hawkish blogs and Pentagon talking points. And, indeed, Spencer called it a couple of weeks ago:

In response to the inability of the national government to resolve Iraq's multifaceted sectarian wars, over the last several months, administration mouthpieces have changed the subject. Baghdad politics is outré. The new fashion is what's called "bottom-up reconciliation" -- that is, political advances in Iraq's 18 provinces meant to reveal a new spirit of Iraqi brotherhood. Expect to hear a lot about bottom-up reconciliation in next month's congressional testimony from General David Petraeus and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. And expect it to be as disingenuous as every other portrayal of political progress in Iraq.



The crux of the matter is that bottom-up reconciliation isn't reconciliation at all. It's the Anbar Awakening business given a new label in the hope of confusing people. But while Sunni Arabs falling out with AQI is welcome, it's by no means the same thing as Sunni Arabs reaching a political accommodation with Shiite Arabs. Rather, while the Sunnis once thought that their best hope of regaining Sunni supremacy was to ally with AQI in fighting an American/Shiite front, they now think the best hope is to get America on their side and use our guns to fight Shiites later.

Meanwhile, you can see in this circumventing talk that the nature of the mission in Iraq has changed yet again. WMD are done, democracy is done, and now even stability is done, and we're trying to circumvent the central government that, 18 months ago, we were desperately trying to bolster.

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