Via a thought-provoking diary by Spin Doctor on Tacitus
Freedom may be on the march in Iraq, but it's very likely about to hit a serious pothole. Regardless of who wins the White House this week, what's waiting for him to deal with in Iraq is no Inaugural Ball. From Newsweek:
And so the bloody battles of the Iraq war—which never quite ended—are about to start up again in full force. Much depends on the new offensive. If it succeeds, it could mark a turning point toward Iraqi security and stability. If it fails, then the American president will find himself in a deepening quagmire on Inauguration Day. The Fallujah offensive "is going to be extremely significant," says one U.S. official involved in the planning. "It's an attempt to tighten the circle around the most problematic areas and isolate these insurgents." But it will also be "the first major test" of the new Iraqi security forces since the debacle in April, says Michael Eisenstadt, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute. Their performance, he says, will "provide a key early indicator of the long-term prospects for U.S. success in Iraq."
For months the American people have heard, from one side, promises to "stay the course" in Iraq (George W. Bush); and from the other side, equally vague plans for gradual withdrawal (John Kerry). Both plans depend heavily on building significant Iraqi forces to take over security. But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraq—which is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. "Things are getting really bad," a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government told NEWSWEEK last week. "The initiative is in [the insurgents'] hands right now. This approach of being lenient and accommodating has really backfired. They see this as weakness." (emphasis mine)