I consider Thomas Friedman to be part of the responsible political left. In this column, he gives his assessment of the current situation in Iraq. Hard to argue with his points about the current political realities facing the next president – see excerpt below.
The first is the mood of the American public, which has rendered a judgment that the price we have paid in Iraq over the last five years far, far exceeds what has been achieved there to date. Therefore, whoever wins the presidency — John McCain or Barack Obama — will take office knowing that the American people will not tolerate another four years dominated by an open-ended commitment to Iraq.
But the second is the reality on the ground in Iraq, which is no longer an unremitting horror story. Clearly, the surge has helped to dampen the internal conflict. Clearly, the Iraqi Army is performing better. Clearly, Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki, by cracking down on rogue Shiite groups from his own community, has established himself as more of a national leader. Clearly, the Sunnis have decided to take part in the coming parliamentary elections. Clearly, Kurdistan continues to operate as an island of decency and free markets. Clearly, Al Qaeda in Iraq has been hurt. Clearly, some Arab countries are coming to terms with the changes there by reopening embassies in Baghdad.
The third reality, though, is the fact that the reconciliation process inside Iraq — almost five years after our invasion — still has not reached a point where Iraq’s stability is self-sustaining. And Tuesday’s bombing in Baghdad, which killed more than 50 people at a bus stop in a Shiite neighborhood, only underscores that. The U.S. military is still needed as referee. It still is not clear that Iraq is a country that can be held together by anything other than an iron fist. It’s still not clear that its government is anything more than a collection of sectarian fiefs.