[Cc'ed Chaos Manor]
Subject: The Egg Came First
From a White House planner: "As for the benchmarks on political reconciliation from the top down, it is useful to recall that we once thought such political change should precede everything else. That approach did not work. Our new strategy was based on the contrary assumption that security came first, and that parliamentary progress would lag significantly behind other elements."
Pournelle advocated "security and the Rule of Law first" from before we ever went in. It seems the success of the "surge" in Iraq is probably due as much as anything to throwing out neocon (Jacobin) ideas of the magic of democracy and focusing on realism, in the political sense. An excerpt of the article follows.
A few months after that showdown, however, the progress was all but indisputable. By now, indeed, we can see that the surge has bought precious time for the United States and the nascent Iraqi state to progress meaningfully toward five specific objectives.
First is extirpating the inciters of sectarian violence: al Qaeda in Iraq among the Sunnis and the rogue militias among the Shiites. Second is building up a larger, more capable, and more integrated Iraqi Security Force than existed in 2006.
At the same time, Iraqis are being given the opportunity to create the means of political accommodation locally and from the "bottom up," in ways that reflect the realities of life inside the highly complex mosaic of their country. The achievement of this third goal is the precursor to the fourth, which is to make the central, "top down" government in Baghdad more responsive to the nation's eighteen provinces by opening its pocketbook for projects that will improve the economic and living conditions of the country's citizenry at large.
The final goal is, perhaps, the trickiest: pushing Iraqi politicians to pass legislation on a number of important measures, including the sharing of oil revenues, the funding of infrastructure projects, the reform of de-Baathification laws, and the like. These are the notorious "benchmarks" mentioned by the President in his January 2007 speech and subjected to much derision by skeptics.
A year after Bush first announced the new strategy, progress on the first three objectives has exceeded everyone's expectations, even those who helped design the surge. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been gravely wounded. The rogue elements within the Shiite militias are being pruned away. The Iraq Security Force is growing in size and reliability. And, following the decision of Sunni tribes to turn on al Qaeda and throw in their lot with the United States and the new Iraq, local political accommodation is proceeding at a remarkable pace.
There has also been some movement toward linking the Iraqi parliament's spending to the needs of localities, but so far this is less impressive. As for the benchmarks on political reconciliation from the top down, it is useful to recall that we once thought such political change should precede everything else. That approach did not work. Our new strategy was based on the contrary assumption that security came first, and that parliamentary progress would lag significantly behind other elements. Of course, this has hardly prevented the President's critics from seizing on the failure of the Iraqi government to have completed all of it benchmarks as putative evidence of the surge's overall failure. Even here, however, there has been a measure of progress on the ground: in February, for example, the Iraqi parliament passed legislation addressing several key benchmarks, notably including deBaathification reform and the facilitation of provincial elections as well as of better relations between the provinces and the central government.
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