I think the election in Iraq is a major step forward. But there is still a long, tough row ahead to hoe.
Juan Cole presents his view today, with which I agree. [If you don't regularly read Juan Cole on Iraq, you should.]
A highly placed US official in Baghdad told the Chicago Tribune's Liz Sly that he thought the guerrilla war would go on for many years. As regular readers know, I concur. The old Sunni Arab power elite, mainly Baathists or the officer class, has not reconciled itself to the political ascendancy of the Shiites and Kurds. They still think they can destabilize the country and take back over. I would compare them to the Phalangists, the fascist Maronite Christians in Lebanon, who fought tooth and nail 1975-1989 against recognizing that Christians were no longer a dominant majority in Lebanon. Eventually they had to accept a 50/50 split of seats in parliament (which is generous to the Christians, given that Muslims are now a clear majority). That the Sunni Arab elite might be quicker studies than the Phalangists is possible but a little unlikely.
Likewise, the guerrillas in Iraq have many advantages. They were the managerial class and the officer class, so they have a great deal of organizational know-how. They clearly still have some of the loot the Baathists stole from the Iraqi people, and they know where the missing 250,000 tons of munitions are. If either ran out, there are plenty of Gulf millionnaires who would surreptitiously support a Sunni insurgency against American domination in Iraq. Money is fungible and I don't think their support could be effectively interfered with (do you know how many nouveau riche millionnaires there are in the Gulf?)
America isn't going to stop bleeding and hemorrhaging money in Iraq anytime soon. The Kurds and Shiites will not have effective police or an army in less than two years, if then, and the longer we are there the more we will lose in the Muslim world.
Worse, the Bush administration thinks we will get out soon, so they are not building up the already severely overstretched US military forces. That's the message they send by funding the Iraq war on special appropriations instead of budgeting for the war.
Such ideologically blinded idiocy and incompetence is really hard to believe. In spite of the brief bright spot of the election, the problems are rapidly getting worse and there isn't any suggestion that a correction is on the way.