It’s been indicated to me that John Edwards’ forthcoming speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday will substantially assuage my concerns about his national security vision.
Muqtada al-Sadr goes in for a little political repositioning, “reaching out to a broad array of Sunni leaders” and distancing itself from the US-backed, Shiite-led Iraqi government that it once supported. Sadr’s swung back and forth on this kind of thing, so I don’t think it need be seen as reflecting any true change of heart. Still, he seems like a pretty canny politician who has a better grasp than most Americans on the state of Iraqi public opinion.
Thus, when he has his minions saying things like “We want to aim the guns against the occupation and al-Qaeda, not between Iraqis” I think that’s a sound indication that this is the political sweet spot in Iraq. That, in turn, is just another indication that if we leave Iraq, there’ll be nothing left for Iraqis to do but turn on al-Qaeda; it’s only the fact of the occupation that prevents the objective unpopularity of al-Qaeda from becoming the most salient thing.
The Bush administration has screwed a lot of stuff up through malice, mendacity, or just plain incompetence. On a question like Pakistan, though, I think you do need to concede that the issue is genuinely difficult. On the other hand, years after 9/11 I think it’s clear that what we’re doing isn’t working: “The United States is continuing to make large payments of roughly $1 billion a year to Pakistan for what it calls reimbursements to the country’s military for conducting counterterrorism efforts along the border with Afghanistan, even though Pakistan’s president decided eight months ago to slash patrols through the area where Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are most active.”
For a long time, though, I agreed with people who thought there was no real alternative to propping up Musharraf and sort of hoping for the best. This Blake Hounshell article from a while back convinced me that was wrong.