Friday, June 22, 2007

Two Front War

Our military is doing well in the fight against the enemy in Iraq. The latest offensive aims to wipe out al Qaeda jihadis rather than push them out of an objective. The fight in Baquba is meant to be a fight to their death:

"It is house to house, block to block, street to street, sewer to sewer," said Brigadier-General Mick Bednarek, commander of Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Iraq's Diyala province. ...

Bednarek estimated several hundred al Qaeda militants were at Baquba and it
would be a long and dangerous job for U.S. forces to flush them out.

"They will not go any further. They will fight to the death," Bednarek
told Reuters and another news agency.

Yet remember that the military component of a counter-insurgency is a small albiet crucial component of the fight. While the military front has seen excellent advances this year, the political front is another matter. This front is stalled:

It may be premature to speak of political paralysis. But the fact is that the Maliki government has been unable to pass key items of its program. Crucial bills on the oil industry and the distribution of oil revenues remain bogged down in parliamentary committees. Also unresolved are such explosive problems as the status of Kirkuk (a city disputed between the Kurds and Sunni Arabs) and the creation of new federal entities.

The government's weakness also prevents it from setting a date and rules for the municipal elections needed to create local government units to end de facto control by militias in many parts of the country.
We need to make sure the Iraqis advance on this front. That doesn't mean we abandon them to their fate if they are too slow. But remember that the Iraqis need to vote on this stuff. We should not be in a hurry to throw democracy overboard just because their democracy is not meeting our timetables.

But this is a problem. No doubt.