I hate to poach posts outright from Kevin Drum, but this quote, from Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker, on how we’re doing in Iraq, deserves a reprint:
The question was, do I think we’re winning in Iraq?….
[Long silence, sound of papers shuffling.]
I think I would answer that by telling you I don’t think we’re losing.
Well, then. Good thing we’re going to be in the country until at least 2016, if various senior military officials can be believed.
Actually, I may as well try to make some more substantive comments about Iraq by noting that the New York Times also had a truly excellent article a few weeks ago about Algeria. Yes, Algeria. In an attempt to help reconcile the country after its bloody civil war in the 1990s, the Algerian government last year passed an amnesty bill that released thousands of Islamist fighters from prison and shielded former government-backed death squads from prosecution. The point was to try to forgive and forget and hope that everyone would drop their weapons and make peace.
Now this is what some people in the Iraqi government have been considering with regards to Sunni insurgents. But as the Times reports, amnesty really hasn’t gone all that well in Algeria: “the fighting is not over… [d]ozens are dying monthly.” Not surprisingly, many Algerians aren’t enamored of the idea that death squads and terrorists get to avoid prosecution. One would presume that, in Iraq, many Shiites would be just as upset with the idea of amnesty, and it might not reconcile much of everything. At any rate, it’s a important cautionary tale, and a reminder that there are few, if any, panaceas for a country split open by civil war.