Thursday, June 16, 2011

Checking In

Foreign Policy has an article about how Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq is consolidating power and rapidly becoming the sort of controlling leader we allegedly invaded to prevent:
With these security gains, Iraq's primary challenge has now shifted. Terrorist violence is still an enormous and regular threat, of course: Roadside bombs target U.S. and Iraqi security forces; insurgents sabotage essential infrastructure; assassins murder government officials with silenced pistols; and suicide attackers carry out coordinated operations designed to rack up the highest body count possible. But as horrible as terrorist violence is, the ICG has observed that "it will take a change in the country's political dynamics in order for [insurgent] attacks to have any significant effect" on the stability of the state. The existential threat to Iraq no longer comes from isolated attacks, but from the risks of political combustion.

Maliki's growing power may now pose such a risk. Despite his security gains, he has not normalized command and control of the military. In fact, he now functions not only as commander in chief but also as the acting head of the Defense and Interior ministries, which run the Army and the police, respectively. Not only is Maliki effectively a commanding general, but he is also the chief administrator of the country's security forces. In 2009, in light of this worrying trend, the Guardiancharacterized Maliki's rule as authoritarian; Maliki responded by suing the British newspaper for nearly a million dollars and seeking to close its Baghdad bureau.

The rest of the article has the usual disturbing signs—terrorizing journalists, marginalizing the opposition, etc.—and they’re pretty disturbing. It’s worth noting, whenever news comes out like this, that the exact purpose of the initial invasion and the subsequent surge was to create a better politics for Iraq. They are better, clearly so: but are they so much better that we can say the price we paid for it was worth it? I’m going to say no.

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