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July 20, 2007
Krauthammer: 20% Is Better Than Nothing
Charles Krauthammer diagnoses the surge and realistically confronts what the probable outcome might be:
For an interminable 18 months we waited for the 80 percent solution -- for Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-Kurdish coalition to reach out to the Sunnis. The Petraeus-Crocker plan is the 20 percent solution: peel the Sunnis away from the insurgency by giving them the security and weaponry to fight the new common enemy -- al-Qaeda in Iraq. Maliki & Co. are afraid we are arming Sunnis for the civil war to come. On the other hand, we might be creating a rough balance of forces that would act as a deterrent to all-out civil war and encourage a relatively peaceful accommodation. Krauthammer correctly identifies the forces at work in the Sunni provinces where we are making deals with some of the tribes to help us fight al-Qaeda. Coupled with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams who are doing good work under the radar of the media by making the lives of Sunni Iraqis better one at a time, there is little doubt that General Petreaus is beginning to show some positive results flowing from his strategy. What remains to be seen whether there can be any long term results to the strategy. If Congress pulls the plug on our forces precipitously, how long will it be before al-Qaeda regains their momentum? And I'm not sure putting guns in the hands of the Sunnis is going to deter the sectarian killers who permeate the government. The Sunni-Shia conflict (along with the fight for dominance among other Shia factions) probably won't stop until exhaustion sets in. No one knows when that might be.
In either case, that will be Iraq's problem after we leave. For now, our problem is al-Qaeda on the Sunni side and the extremist militias on the Shiite side. And we are making enough headway to worry people such as Suneid. The Democrats might listen to him to understand how profoundly the situation is changing on the ground -- and think twice before they pull the plug on this complicated, ruthless, hopeful "purely American vision."