THE HOPEFUL MESS IN IRAQ

The news from Iraq today is about as good as one can hope for right now. Some Sunni leaders have been enticed to support the Constitution on the understanding that they have a few months to finesse it after the vote. It’s a messy, fraught and unsatisfying compromise, which is to say it’s politics. Politics, recall, is what Iraq hasn’t really had for thirty years. Under Saddam, it had tyranny backed by sadism and corruption. The politics that existed was the politics of internal mafia disputes. Now we actually have negotiation, brinksmanship, and the astonishingly resolute refusal of the Shiite leadership to be drawn into civil war by Zarqawi’s brutal slaying of Shiite Muslims. There’s even evidence that al Qaeda’s leadership understands that terror attacks on mosques might actually undermine Jihadism and so are trying to restrain Zarqawi. None of this, of course, guarantees ultimate success. But the whole point of this war was to transform a region ruled by fear into a region ruled by consent. We’d be foolish to believe this could happen overnight; and we’ve been criminally negligent in not providing the security that is indispensable to a successful transition. But given Rumsfeld’s refusal to pacify the country, this violence-strewn mess is our best hope. And hope there still is.

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