Forget “Discrete Benchmarks”

The fatigue of the war in Iraq is so strong that not only are many of Bush’s guys bailing out on him, but even our own ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, paints a grim picture that the administration isn’t too jazzed about hearing.  This is from today’s NY Times:

In setting out what he [Crocker] called “the kind of things you have to think about” before an American troop withdrawal, the ambassador cited several possibilities. He said these included a resurgence by the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which he said had been “pretty hard-pressed of late” by the additional 30,000 troops Mr. Bush ordered deployed here this year; the risk that Iraq’s 350,000-strong security forces would “completely collapse” under sectarian pressures, disintegrating into militias; and the specter of interference by Iran, neighboring Sunni Arab states and Turkey.

The ambassador also suggested what is likely to be another core element of the approach that he and General Petraeus will take to the September report: that the so-called benchmarks for Iraqi government performance set by Congress in a defense authorization bill this spring may not be the best way of assessing whether the United States has a partner in the Baghdad government that warrants continued American military backing. “The longer I’m here, the more I’m persuaded that Iraq cannot be analyzed by these kind of discrete benchmarks,” he said.

After the Iraqi government drew up the first list of benchmarks last year, American officials used them as their yardstick, frequently faulting the Iraqis for failure to act on them, especially on three items the Americans identified as priorities: a new oil law sharing revenue between Iraq’s main population groups; a new “de-Baathification” law widening access to government jobs to members of Saddam Hussein’s former ruling party; and a law scheduling provincial elections to choose representative governments in areas where Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds are competing for power.

But Mr. Crocker said there were better ways to measure progress, including the levels of security across Iraq, progress in delivering basic services like electricity to the population, and steps by Iraqi leaders from rival groups to work more collaboratively.

Measured solely by the legislative benchmarks, he said, “you could not achieve any of them, and still have a situation where arguably the country is moving in the right direction. And conversely, I think you could achieve them all and still not be heading towards stability, security and overall success for Iraq.”

And then…

You have the Republican vs Republican cage match (thanks to Talkingpointsmemo)where it’s clear someone hasn’t been drinking their daily pint of Kool-Aid.

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