Everyone from Kevin Drum to Pejman Yousefzadeh seems to believe that the announcement that Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his militiamen to go home is good news.
Now good news has been pretty scarce of late, and I don’t enjoy raining on my friends’ parade, so I’ll agree that this is good news.
Just one thing, though: I sorta doubt it’s good news for our side.
The subtext seems to be that we’re going to let the murder charge slide and allow Sadr to set up a political party. Since our own polling shows him to have picked up enormous popular support by running a guerrilla war against us, and has him currently the second-most-popular figure in (non-Kurdish) Iraq, running only slightly behind Ali al-Sistani, this looks like a pretty terrific outcome from al-Sadr’s viewpoint. And he remains our bitter enemy.
Now maybe we’re about to double-cross al-Sadr and toss him in the clink as soon as his troops disband. And maybe we could get away with it. But right now this looks to me like a second Fallujah.
So if this is the best you’ve got to offer as good news, do me a favor: don’t show me the bad news.
Update Glenn Reynolds is cheerful, too, even while linking to this Reuters story noting the administration’s climb-down from the position that al-Sadr was a thug to be imprisoned to the position that he’s welcome to participate in the politics of the new Iraq.
The way I learned my Clausewitz, winning on the battlefield but not achieving the aim for which you were fighting doesn’t count as winning.
We sought a confrontation with al-Sadr. We were fighting to take him off the table as a political figure. Now the fighting is over, and he’s apparently a more popular and potent political figure than ever. Maybe my eyes are getting tired, but from where I sit it looks as if he just won and we just lost.