There's at least one more aspect to consider when appraising the past six years in Iraq climaxed by the "surge." This would be the indirect effect of "reflected glory," if such a quaint term applies, and has to do with the sort of state the U.S. helped create in Iraq.
I don't know how to candy-coat reality: Post-surge Iraq is a state of increasing repression, endemic corruption, religious and ethnic persecution and encroaching Sharia. Recent media reports flag just some of these glaring truths that American elites, civilian and military, seem to shy away from.
In October, from AsiaNews, came the latest news of, to quote the headline, "Sharia Slowly Advancing in Najaf and Basra, for Non-Muslims Too." Here, the Sharia (Islamic law) is invoked to ban alcohol sales and consumption by non-Muslims -- namely, Christians, given the eradication and dispersal of Iraq's ancient Jewish population -- "on the grounds that Iraq's constitution," as Ahmad al Sulaiti, deputy governor of Najaf, notes, "'bans everything that violates the principles of Islam.''" More on that below.
In November, Reuters highlighted the government crackdown on the media via lawsuits against criticism, and laws enabling the government to close media outlets that "encourage terrorism, violence," and -- here's a handy catch-all -- "tensions." There are new rules to license satellite trucks, censor books and control Internet cafes. "The measures evoke memories of ... the laws used to muzzle (journalism) under Saddam Hussein," Reuters writes.
In December, the British paper The Observer reported that hundreds of Iraqi police and soldiers descended on Baghdad's 300 nightclubs where they "slapped owners' faces, scattered their patrons and dancing girls, ripped down posters advertising upcoming acts and ordered alcohol removed from the shelves." The official reason? No licenses. But, the paper reports, "the reality is that a year-long renaissance in Baghdad's nightlife may be over as this increasingly conservative city takes on a hard-line religious identity." As one club owner said: "This is a political decision with a religious agenda. (Prime Minister Nouri al-) Maliki needs the votes of religious parties ... They (the government) supported us and gave us incentives to reopen the clubs, then when it suited them, they sold us and themselves out to the fundamentalists."