Think-tank types - and not just those on the Left - are beginning to write that the window of opportunity the Surge was intended to force open is now closing. But if the window for the Iraqi government to firmly grasp reconciliation is closing then so is the US' chance to head for the exit while on a Surge of favorable news.
Spencer Ackerman had an excellent article yesterday on the closing window that is also a door and today journalist and blogger Shaun Mullen writes:
You don’t have to be a bloody genius to know that sooner or later the window of opportunity for Iraqi national reconciliation and a lasting reduction in sectarian violence as a result of the successes of the Surge would begin to close unless there was progress on the part of the Baghdad government.Al Qaeda has always proven adaptable to new US tactics and it should come as no surprise that they have done so again. Yet it always does come as a surprise to the Bush cheerleading set, who focus on AQ's barbarism (and yes, they are barbaric) to the extent of denying to themselves that even monsters can be smart monsters. It doesn't matter how many military battles the US wins - it will lose in the long run if AQ can simply help keep Iraq unstable. The political dynamic in Iraq means AQ can claim victory just by not surviving but the Bush administration (and it's supporters) are deliberately myopic about Iraq's internicine mess simply because it holds little hope of good news, let alone victory.
Well, boys and girls, it would appear that the window is indeed beginning to close since there has been no progress whatsoever except for a totally bogus un-de-Baathification law passed earlier this month.
As a consequence, insurgents have predictably adapted their tactics amidst this power vacuum, there has been an up-tick in high-profile bombings and U.S. and civilian casualties, and the level of violence in Mosul is at a two-year high despite intense U.S. pacification efforts. The twin suicide bombings that took over 50 lives in mainly Shiite areas of Baghdad today were the worst since additional U.S. troops began flooding into the capital last spring.
...the Al-Maliki government has no incentive to take advantage of the opening the Surge has given it because President Bush has given something far more important to he and his Shiite cronies — coup insurance in the form of a long-term troop presence. This is the status quo for the foreseeable future. There is no post-Surge strategy, let alone an endgame, because in the Bush Universe politics yet again trump policy.
So the US finds itself in a no-win situation. To withdraw now would seem to invite either a civil war or the ascendancy of nationalists from both Sunni and Shiite sides who would be no use at all in forming a bastion of pro-American power in the Middle East. Yet to remain to try prevent this occuring will only put off the inevitable while bloodying American hands as AQI adapts, the Sunni Awakening get frustrated with Maliki's intransigence then starts shooting again and Sadr's ceasefire eventually ends. Bush has punted the whole issue, leaving it for the next president - or perhaps even the one after that - to tell the US public the bad news. That the US should have gotten out while the getting was comparatively good.
Update Our own Eric Martin points to news that even the de-Ba'athification law is in trouble. Sunni Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi said the Presidential Council is unlikely to ratify the law because "the spirit of revenge is so clear in many articles of the law." If the Presidential Council is unanimous on this - and Hashimi says they are - then the law is dead in the water.