Posted by: Jeff | January 19, 2010

Son of FUBAR: Addendum

As we discussed in our latest podcast, one of the claims made in favor of Obama’s surge in Afghanistan is that it’s a repeat of Bush’s surge in Iraq. And since the conventional wisdom holds that the Iraq surge worked, this bodes well for the surge in Afghanistan.

My feeling here is that the conventional wisdom is a real stretch. And one of my main reasons is the continued uncertainty about whether Iraq can actually govern itself in the absence of the 130,000 U.S. troops which are still there. When Joe and I recorded this podcast in early December, Iraq’s latest election – the first since 2005 – had already been delayed multiple times in the face of severe factional disagreement. This article in The New York Times has the low-down:

Essentially, the dispute centered on the allocation of seats in Parliament, with each sect angling to get as many seats as possible in the areas where it felt strongest. Because a national census that was supposed to take place earlier this year was postponed, there is no accurate count of Iraqi citizens, and each political faction was wary of being shortchanged.

The initial effort to pass an election law was delayed on 11 separate occasions, but when an agreement was reached Nov. 8, it was hailed as a sign of progress.

That deal quickly fell apart when Mr. Hashimi used his constitutional authority to veto it.

This resulted in a cascading series of disputes and blown deals which the Times article describes as “the brink of a constitutional crisis.” And this is still with huge numbers of our troops in country to make sure everyone behaves themselves.

At the time of our recording, we weren’t sure what the state of the dispute was. It now appears that a few days after we recorded, a deal was finally struck that all parties could (apparently) live with. It has so far held and the elections are currently scheduled for March 7, 2010.

The results of that election, and whether or not Iraq’s consensus is able to hold together long enough for the elections to actually happen, will be a major factor in determining whether the scheduled 2010 pull-out of American troops actually happens as promised. By extension, it will also be a significant data point in determining whether the nation-building project the Bush Administration launched in Iraq in 2003 has real long-term viability.

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