Saturday, October 11, 2003

Iraq's Trajectory

Matthew Yglesias suggests the real problem in Iraq is that progress is coming too slowly. I think he's on the right track there. Progress is definitely being made in terms of the infrastructure and political institutions. However, the longer this takes, the more Iraqis will turn against a U.S. which they have historically had little reason to trust. This will lead to more recruitment by groups dedicated to ending the current occupation, and from there it is an unfortunately short path to a real conflict between the U.S. and the Iraqi people.

On a related note, David Asednik of Oxblog seems to suggest that the recent actions by Muqtada Sadr's followers in Iraq aren't that big a deal because of Sadr's lack of support in the Shi'ite hierarchy. However, for reasons noted here, I don't think that really means much. What is at issue is not Sadr's traditional religious authority, but his ability to mobilize followers for a political agenda. Of that, there is no question, and I would ask Asednik if he's really willing to just brush off a potential urban guerrilla war against an army of 10,000 and growing. I doubt Muqtada Sadr can actually come to power in Iraq, but he can wreak enough havoc that the door would be open for other Iraqi leaders who see vulnerabilities in the coalition.


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