It seems that options (b) and (c) won't magically make the area on the map once known as Irak into stable democracy. Option (d) cannot even be considered until 2009. And nobody wants to go with option (a) without also pursuing option (d), which is off the table for the moment.
So it is Stay the Course versus Change the Course, for now.
The current strategy is not something called “The Surge.” The Current Strategy, rather, is an effort to referee civil strife among the competing factions in Irak, all while promoting a social order. In essence, it is a bad bet on the Maliki Government and its ability to form a unifying governing coalition that crosses sectarian, tribal, ethnic and other lines. When order is restored and authority established in the Maliki led central government, a functional state can emerge over time.
As daily violence in Irak has decreased over the past six months, we can look to four factors to explain the decrease: “The Truce,” “The Flip,” “The Cleansing” and “The Surge.” The Truce occurred in late 2006, when Shia leader Al Sadr issued a temporary order to his faction and its militia, the al-Mahdi army, to stand down. The Flip occurred shortly thereafter, when Sunni Leaders agreed to ally their Factions with U.S. forces against AQI. The Cleansing refers to the exodus of millions of refugees from their homes and the partitioning of Baghdad into sectarian and sometimes walled off enclaves. The Surge, on this page, refers both to a shift in tactics, i.e., implementing counterinsurgency doctrine, along with the additional troop presence to bolster security at the village and neighborhood level.
This gets us to where we are today as we watch the various Factions competing for Political Power. Due to The Cleansing, Irak has fragmented along ethnic, sectarian and geographic lines. Within Baghdad , for example, there has been a high rate of internal displacement, with displaced persons moving from heterogeneous neighborhoods to homogeneous neighborhoods within the City. In October of 2007, the estimation internally displaced persons in Baghdad was 68%.
Irak will most likely either remain factionalized or continue toward greater factionalization. The current Strategy requires decreased factionalization of the country in favor of a unified central government. However, the tactics that are currently being utilized, i.e., The Flip, and building of popular support for local governmental institutions actually increase factionalization. This is because the local populations start to look inward or to an external power rather than to Central Government for the establishment of social order.
So, where to next? One way is: to Stay the Course; hope for the best; and fill the role of an external power enforcing social order. However, this is a tenuous track. In order to placate one minority faction and improve the security situation, you arm their militias and foster local control through CLC’s and local institutions and leaders. At the same time this alienates the Coalition Shia run Central Government in Baghdad, which by the way is struggling with intra-sectarian clash on the streets of Basra and Baghdad with the militia of same guy that declared The Truce. And as we see, this competition among factions weakens the Central Government and creates stability/power vacuums. The Factions then look to bolster their position with regard to other Factions by looking to external forces. Currently, US Forces and Iranian influences are available to fill the void.
Here’s the tally: to stay the course, we have to balance the competing interests of the different factions, spend the blood and treasure, all while countering Iranian influence and at the same time build the necessary institutions that will garner popular support. Some are suggesting that instability may be a good thing, intentional that is, because it provides the necessary conditions for the US to stay in Irak long term and serve as a needed external force to enforce social order. Maybe this is the goal of the 100 years crowd. But as said already, this situation on the ground is tenuous and depends on the Truce holding, the Flip staying Firm and the Factions settling on bickering rather than Fighting. And we have to keep doing this indefinitely, and I mean years.
Another way to go would be to change the course and invite international involvement. We start by hedging our bet on the Maliki Government and further favor the local option. Continued redeployment could continue at is current slow pace and during this period local institutions could be promoted along Geographic lines. The central government would retain responsibility for national defense and oil revenue distribution, but as Irak has become fractured, regional institutions would be a source of order, security and development. One source says “Rather than trying to resolve long-term, controversial political issues about the nature of the Iraqi state, the U.S. could let those questions linger and instead work on governing capacity building at the provincial and local levels and cultivating new, local leaders …. The rise of local leaders and parties could then create the circumstances for genuine reconciliation.” But the form of reconciliation is left undecided.
In Federalist Number Ten, we learn that the Founders had a Fear of Factions. But they thought the Fear of Factions could be resolved by making the Country so Large that a faction can’t gain nationwide traction. The power of the Whole checks the faction from gaining control on a large scale due to competing interest groups and regional governmental institutions. In Irak we gotta Faction problem, but it’s on steroids.
So where to go....nobody knows. But we all get a picture of what's not working. The larger question of what to do next, is a debate that will get started up some time in the fall.