Here's one more on the latter:
The dangerous fantasy that Iraq was on the brink of a new democratic era in 2010 – if only the Obama administration had leaned harder on Iraq's politicians – just won't die. And it's a matter of more than historical interest, with America announcing today further support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, and amid ongoing efforts to find a military solution to the civil war in Syria. ...
Al Qaeda in Iraq came to be after the US invaded in March 2003, removing a Sunni Arab strongman who hated jihadis as much as he oppressed Iraq's Shiite Arab majority. Al Qaeda in Iraq gave birth to the Islamic State, one of the most potent Sunni jihadi forces in history.
With the destruction of the secular Baath regime and Iraq's army, followed by an aggressive lustration campaign that threw tens of thousands of Iraqi civil servants and officers out of work, the US created a Sunni resistance army in waiting that didn't wait for very long. With the emergence of the clandestine Shiite Islamist parties from the shadows – many of whose leaders had survived the brutality of the Hussein years under Iran's protection – a sectarian mindset was almost inevitable for Iraq's new politics. ...
Reconciliation was in fact a very tough sell in a country that had gone through so much sectarian trauma, so recently.
We're darned close to the nonsense that Iraq was a kite-flying paradise before we destroyed the Saddam regime.
We did not break Iraq. Let me reply to that charge as I did at the end of 2007 when the surge offensive had clearly beaten down the jihadis and convinced the Sunni Arabs to flip to our side (but before the pro-Iran Shias were knocked down in spring 2008) and still opponents saw defeat and wanted us to run:
Under Saddam, the Shia south was kept under sullen control after mass killings and continuous oppression. Western Anbar was subcontracted to the Sunni Arab tribes and not under control of Saddam. The Kurdish north was de facto independent under American and British protection. And even the center was largely subcontracted out to criminal gangs. The Iraqi state was really Saddam's family and favored Tikriti Sunni Arabs plus the security apparatus and a UN seat. It lived off of the people of Iraq but was not a country at all. No unity and no stability except the quiet calm of a corpse, and surely not even Korb believed Saddam was winning those elections at 99+%.
Today, the Kurds remain part of Iraq despite their autonomy. The Shia south is again part of Iraq--and willingly so. Anbar is at least as much a part of Iraq now as under Saddam, and if oil revenue is shared out to the province it will become solid. And the government is gaining control of the center--including tackling the criminal gangs. And through it all, democracy is being honored. And stability is growing from military and political success, and Iraq will be more stable for the democracy we are helping Iraqis build rather than being the sullen quiet of people too beaten down to raise their voices in protest.
Is ethnic division still significant? Yes. But as long as the resulting competition can be confined to politics and elections, why is this ethnic division any more serious a threat to democracy than the bitter Republican-Democratic divide here? Are all of our ethnic groups evenly divided between the parties?
As long as rule of law and minority rights keep losers from pulling out their guns and keep winners from enforcing victory in perpetuity by their guns, competition is actually normal and healthy. Who says they have to get along or like each other much? They just have to play by democracy's rules for this to work.
I'd never say that our presence after 2011 guaranteed a functioning democracy any more than I claimed Iraq was doomed because we left.
What I said about a democratic Iraq was that our odds of success were reduced if we left and that our odds if we stayed were better.
The idea that the years of Saddam's, jihadis', and Sadrists' bloodletting guaranteed failure no matter what we did in 2011 forces you to say that Western Europe after World War II couldn't possibly repair the damage from the bloodletting of 1939-1945.
And it requires you to remember that 1946 and 1947 were no picnic, either.
But hey, nice try on the "it's Bush's fault" genre. Time to go back to the "ancient conflict that can't be solved" genre, I think.
UPDATE: It isn't just me. This being my second post in recent days on this subject. Instapundit notices that the Left has become more active on this front.
Are they expecting failure in Iraq? (What? Those racists don't think our first African-American president can do better in Iraq that Bushitler?)
Or maybe they expect this effort is Security Theater that will end after the next presidential election, and they need to excuse that? (Maybe we'll subcontract security for Iraq to Iran since Iran has done such a splendid job of defending the Assad regime in Syria.)
UPDATE: I think Jon Stewart is funny, but I simply don't value his judgment on the Iraq War. I just don't.