Four Voices on Iraq
A deep talk on Diane Rehm Show with Frederick Kagan (theoretician of the Surge), Peter Galbraith (with Biden the theoretician of the soft partition), Bobby Ghosh (Time reporter), and Julian Barnes (Pentagon reporter).
First thought: Frederick Kagan admits that he thought the real threat to the surge was the Mahdi Army (i.e. Shia militias). What this shows is that Kagan has very little to no idea what is going on in Iraq and he is the thinker behind the surge.
What Kagan failed to realize is the Shia have won the government and have no reason to not let the US fight their fight and stand down during a troop surge. Kagan also says that arrests of the Mahdi Army have been going. What he doesn't admit (or know?) is that Moqtada al Sadr is using the surge to cleanse his own ranks of disloyal elements. Not exactly big time arrests. He is turning the Jaish al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) into Hezbollah. When the US leaves, Hezbollah in Iraq (Mahdi Army) will be the largest militia and perhaps the most organized and efficient. al-Qaeda in Iraq will vie with Sadrists for that title and it will be bloody.
Galbraith correctly (and of course) points out that the surge is useless as long as it is hitched to a failed strategy/goal---unified Iraq with strong central government. He strongly criticizes Kagan's views on how quickly the Sadr movement (Mahdi Army included) will disappear.
Listen to Bobby Ghosh. Very wise man who knows the cultures, the lands, and so forth. What he points out is that people on the ground is that once the US leaves there will be no impartial army on the ground. The Iraqi Army is a sectarian institution through and through. So is the government. It is a Shia government, army, and police. The Sunni "rejectionists" group want a fight.
People see this as only a lull in the coming uptick violence. There is no political settlement in site I'm afraid. As Ghosh says, "AQI [and the Sunnis] will continue to provoke the Shia until they get the response they want [namely the Shia rise up and an all out sectarian civil war]."
The reason I'm harsh to Kagan is that the surge assumes that the Sunni can and want to be bought in. And that a group like AQI is just an extremist group that can be fought and the Sunnis en masse will buy in. It also assumes the Shia will accept them. I see neither of these assumptions as so inaccurate.
But listen to the arguments from all on their own terms.