What Course?

The president, or so he tells me, is committed to staying the course in Iraq. But what course are we on? According to the DOD’s “weekly” status report (it appears to actually be biweekly) this is the schedule:

  • July 04: National Conference convenes and selects Interim National Council. [This is going to be an unelected mock legislature to accompany the unelected mock cabinet currently governing the country; as I understand it the unelected cabinet need not maintain the confidence of the unelected legislature to govern, so I don’t totally see the point here. Nevertheless….]
  • January 31, 05: Elections for the National Assembly complete. [This will be done, much to the chagrin of Michael Rubin, via a party list system, which ensures that SCIRI and al-Dawa will together get most of the seats unless al-Sadr really succeeds in building a political party with the dynamic duo of PKK and PUK picking up Kurdish votes and unknown persons winning in the Sunni areas]
  • Early 05: Iraqi Transitional Government takes power. [straightforward enough]
  • 15 August 05: National Assembly completes draft of permanent constitution.
  • 15 October 05: Referendum for permanent constitution.
  • 15 December 05: Elections for permanent government.
  • 31 December 05: Elected government assumes office.

Now if you ask me, this is a program straight out of the same fantasy land as Bush’s budgetary proposals. The odds that whoever is in power through all this will fail to take advantage of the emergency situation created by the insurgency to simply not hold either the first or the second set of elections is approximately zero. Indeed, our friend Iyad Allawi has already indicated his desire to do this. This possibility could be forestalled, of course, if America cared to use its large military force to make the Interim and Transitional governments play by the rules, but our behavior during the IGC’s decision to appoint itself the Interim government suggests that we’re not willing to pick any new fights in Iraq. There’s a strong case to be made that this is the right call — that it’s no longer possible for American intervention to increase the likelihood that a stable, broadly pro-American democracy will emerge in Iraq, so we might as well go with the flow. But if that’s the policy, can we stop bullshitting around and admit that we’ve entered the “cut our losses / take our gains” phase of this operation?