Thank God. A new Kenneth Pollack article! About Iraq! In The New Republic! Yes! It seems that the surge is working. Or, more precisely:
The bottom line in Iraq remains complicated. We should be heartened by recent progress, but we should not assume we have won yet, either: Failure is still at least as likely as success. But all is far from lost in Iraq, and the outlines of a successful strategy are finally appearing. Nevertheless, if the Bush administration is going to engineer lasting achievements from the accomplishments of the surge so far, it still has a lot to do and little margin for error.
There are a few flies in the ointment. For example: “the country’s central government remains a highly counter-productive force.” That’s no problem, though. Rather than deal with the central government being a highly counter-productive force rather than a useful partner by leaving Iraq, we could just order up a new government: “by substituting one coalition for another within the current Council of Representatives (COR), but by advancing the date for elections (from late 2009 to late 2008 or early 2009) to get an entirely new COR.” We can also help out by speeding the dismembering of the Iraqi state: “it may be necessary for Iraq to move to something closer to a cantonal system along Swiss lines.”
At any rate, it’s important to keep the stakes in mind:
As both of these examples illustrate, such campaigns require lots of time. In Iraq, several important factors, including the fortuitous and well-exploited “Anbar awakening,” in which large numbers of Sunni tribes turned on their former allies in Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and other Salafi extremist groups, has speeded progress. But there are three hurdles the United States must clear if it is to convert initial success into victory and leave Iraq as the next Northern Ireland, instead of the next Vietnam. This will still require considerable skill–and not a little luck.
To be honest, all you ought to need to say to make the case for withdrawal is “according to the proponents of staying, Northern Ireland is the best case scenario.” I mean, that’s crazy.
But to note a couple of analogistic points, they speak English in Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland is tiny, and the idea of just importing the Swiss political system to a foreign country with totally different traditions (and geography!) is silly.