Yes, this is not how democracy is supposed to develop:
The situation is fundamentally the product of an Iraqi national government run by sectarian factions rather than by Western-style political parties. As Emma Sky, former political advisor to coalition forces, observes, Iraq has become more of a “state of militias than a state of institutions,” which has spawned “a kleptocratic political class that lives in comfort in the Green Zone, detached from the long-suffering population, which still lacks basic services.”
Now, I disagree with the notion that our establishment of the Green Zone--really just a secure zone to house necessary administrative and military headquarters to fight the war without being attacked on a weekly basis--caused the problem. Whatever government Iraq has would want something similar, somewhere.
The real problem is that Iraq is a state of militias.
Before the success of the surge offensive was evident, I worried about the long-term threat that Shia militias posed to success:
While we have an wider interest in killing the al Qaeda types in Iraq so they die in place, as far as the Iraq campaign goes, it is from the Shia community that the most dangerous threat to the government arises. Not that anywhere near a majority of Shias are part of this threat, but a threat from within this group could conceivably lay claim to the support of this whole community under the right circumstances. A Sadr or other Iranian puppet would have only to pretend to be a local group long enough to take power.
As we left Iraq, I complained that leaving put the development of politics to resolve disputes at risk in Iraq:
In noting the post-withdrawal violence in Iraq and the political battles that threaten to unravel the political system, I've noted two major things. One, that Iraqis have endured similar problems in the past and have come through them; and two, our military presence functioned as a safety net that helped keep the problems contained to the political sphere. ...
Our troops weren't out there on the streets, but our mere presence in bases was a safety net that let Iraqi politicians know that they couldn't get away with armed responses to political opposition and also that they were safe from armed responses to their political moves. So yeah, political crises were resolved in the past.
To repeat, our troop presence provided reassurance to Iraqi political factions that rival factions would not get away with using force to resolve disputes over who gets what.
When we left, the fear of rivals using traditional measures of force to resolve political disputes rose and now we have a state of militias rather than one of developing institutions and rule of law.
And even when we get around to defeating ISIL--assuming that is our intent rather than just avoiding defeat during the Obama administration to avoid being blamed for losing Iraq--we will have a lot of ground to recover on the domestic Iraqi front to restore confidence that rule of law rather than rule of death squads and militias will govern Iraq.
Oh, and I fear that I was all too right about that breathing piece of walking garbage, Sadr.