Iraq Update: 11/28/04
On November 26, several Brookings Institution specialists described the overall situation in Iraq in sobering terms, based on an analysis of the available statistics:
On balance, the data show that security trends in Iraq are generally poor, economic trends are promising but glacial in pace, and political trends are hopeful but fragile.
Go to the Brookings Iraq Index Web site for full data and additional research.
Of course, it is possible that much of what is taking place in Iraq is not adequately conveyed in statistics. This past Monday, Arthur Chrenkoff produced his latest biweekly update on the overlooked progress being made in rebuilding Iraq. Once more, I recommend giving it a read:
What Chrenkoff's reports show is that, despite all the difficulties, progress continues to be made. As Thomas Friedman noted in a November 21 New York Times column, there are reasons for optimism:
Cultures can change, though. But it takes time. And, be advised, it is going to take years to produce a decent outcome in Iraq. But every time I think this can't work, I come across something that suggests, who knows, maybe this time the play will end differently. The headlines last week were all about Falluja. But maybe the most important story in Iraq was the fact that while Falluja was exploding, 106 Iraqi parties and individuals registered to run in the January election. And maybe the second most important story is the relatively quiet way in which Iraqis, and the Arab world, accepted the U.S. invasion of Falluja. The insurgents there had murdered hundreds of Iraqi Muslims in recent months, and, I think, they lost a lot of sympathy from the Arab street. (But if we don't get the economy going on the Iraqi street, what the rest of the Arab world thinks will be of no help.)
Readers regularly ask me when I will throw in the towel on Iraq. I will be guided by the U.S. Army and Marine grunts on the ground. They see Iraq close up. Most of those you talk to are so uncynical - so convinced that we are doing good and doing right, even though they too are unsure it will work. When a majority of those grunts tell us that they are no longer willing to risk their lives to go out and fix the sewers in Sadr City or teach democracy at a local school, then you can stick a fork in this one. But so far, we ain't there yet. The troops are still pretty positive.
Postcards From Iraq
Despite all the problems, things continue to move forward in Iraq, however slowly. As Friedman points out, our troops remain committed to the mission of building a pluralist democratic Iraq. It will not be quick or easy, but we cannot afford to fail. We owe it to our troops, the Iraqi people, and ourselves to see the mission through.