Maliki faced repeated attempt to oust him -- attempts using terror and violence but also using parliamentary means, which are, paradoxically, a positive sign.
The Iraqi government hasn't met American expectations, which are largely shaped by the American presidential election cycle, but dismissing its achievements is arrogant and ignorant. It is also myopic, given the century-shaping regional and global implications of Iraqi success.
The Federalism Law, de-Baathification reforms and amnesty laws, and the Provincial Powers Act are major acts of legislation, especially when crafted, debated and passed in the midst of sensational terrorist attacks designed to shake the confidence of Iraqis and keep international media focused on conflict instead of maturing compromise.
Reconciliation and consolidation have not been achieved, though Iraqis clearly know a lot more about reconciliation in Iraq than Americans. The December 2006 execution of Saddam, marred though it was, removed the personality from the tyrant's cult of the personality. Saddam's "former regime elements" believed that if they hung on Saddam would return to power. The dictator's open and fair trial also served as a forum to express the people's shared suffering.
Operation Charge of the Knights, begun in southern Iraq in March, followed by Lion's Roar in the Mosul area, are security operations that have clearly served the larger political purposes of strengthening national support for the federal government. Kurds and Sunni Arabs expressed overwhelming support for Charge of the Knights attacks on Shia gangs. The Mosul offensive was designed to destroy al-Qaeda cells that have increasingly focused their violence on Iraqi Sunnis who have joined the political process.
Success over the last two years has been incremental -- democracies tend to work that way. There are signs, however that a democratic foundation is being built for a more secure, productive and free Iraqi future.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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