Middle East Notes and Comment: Thinking Small
July 20, 2007
Washington’s discussions last week about whether the Iraqi government has met its benchmarks miss the point. The Iraq we have been seeking to build for more than four years is not coming to pass, and no combination of incentives, coercion, and U.S. effort will make it so.
From the start, the U.S. government invested in a strong central government in Baghdad to replace Saddam’s centralized tyranny. We poured money into the Green Zone and built up a cadre of politicians who became ensconced there. We spoke a language of projects and markets and models and prototypes, and we threw some of our energetic young people into the mix. The Iraqis in the Green Zone became used to us and often humored us. After hundreds of billions of dollars, however, the trend lines are clear: the central government is less and less relevant to what happens in Iraq, and regional leaders—call them warlords, if you like—are grabbing the upper hand.