I'm looking foward to my power lunch with local area geeks at the Kennedy School. I don't know if it'll come up, but if conversation turns to Iraq, I'll share my position, which is as follows:
I think the Sunnis are playing it smart, offering to hop on board the democracy train (now leaving the station), plus do their best to put the brakes on terrorism, through their contacts within the militant underground, provided the occupying military machine gets moving with that exit strategy.
Sunnis don't want to be perceived as quislings, as hapless puppets doing the bidding of their imperial masters. That'd wreck any chance the nascent government might have for long term credibility in the eyes of young Iraqis, the next generation of potential militants.
This mechanism (politicos unify, militarism goes out of style) will solve a lot of problems: civil war will be averted, as various political factions with shared goals will gain practice working together, and US soldiers will get to go home, mission accomplished, Iraq well on the way towards a democratic future.
Neighbors have signaled their readiness to help, plus their intention to implement democratic reforms themselves. What more could we reasonably expect at this point?
There's a real window of opportunity here. How long will it stay open?
Given the Pentagon's stated purpose is to back Iraqi police against the criminal element, the tools at hand need to fit this purpose. There's a lot of irrelevant heavy machinery littering the landscape (and seascape) over there, that serves no purpose but to remind people that they're occupied.
I think now is the time for the Pentagon's top managment to show us it has control of the situation and realizes what a golden opportunity it has to make things right. I've seen some glimmers of intelligence certainly, which is a good sign.
The decayed state of Iraqi infrastructure, in the health care sector especially, is responsible for many more deaths per diem than the militants, even though that's rarely reported.
The focus needs to shift to infrastructure, and Iraqis working together, with some outside help, to get electricity and water 24/7 365/365. That's the only agenda really worth pursuing, from the standpoint of those depending on public support to stay in office (the premise of democracy).
If every car bomb is used as an excuse to keep an overkill force overdeployed, then obviously we're just dealing with a mindless bureaucracy, a chicken with no head.
I'm interested to find out what kind of animal we're dealing with, and I don't feel like I'm the only guy watching.
But as I said, Iraq may not even come up. Mostly we're just gathering to talk about a big domestic civilian project we're storyboarding.
Iraq is a long way away, and DC prides itself on handling such situations. Most people in the Near East (as some call it) have never heard of PDX, and our civic discourse is more focused on other matters, as it should be.
Portland is not a headquarters for any vast imperial power and to become such would represent a drastic lowering of our high living standards.
Followup: Well, Iraq never came up. We stuck to more geeky topics like World of Warcraft, a LAMP solution for a local NGO, Plone, OSCON, Motorola Canopy, other stuff. My lunch was paid for, as I was on tap as an expert in one or more of the above. Now for my 14 mile bicycle loop -- it's time to start gearing up for the STP again.
Relevant background reading: Exit Strategy (part 1), Oct 2, 2004