Watching from the Sidelines...
Insurgents struck at the heart of the Iraqi government on Wednesday in two huge and deadly bombings that exposed a new vulnerability after Americans ceded control for security here on June 30. Nearby American soldiers stood by helplessly -- despite the needs of hundreds of wounded lying among the dead -- waiting for a request for assistance from Iraqi officials that apparently never came.
"As much as we want to come, we have to wait to be asked now," said an American officer who arrived at one site almost three hours after the blast.... At one blast site, American soldiers snapped pictures of the devastation before ducking out of the streets.
It's tempting to look at this and conclude that the sky is falling. That would be wrong, and here I humbly part ways with Tom Ricks's ongoing predictions of an "unraveling." Violence, as Peter Feaver has argued, is an unreliable metric for measuring success or failure. Just because terrorists can carry out a few coordinated, spectacular acts of carnage does not necessarily mean that they are a growing or reemerging threat to the Iraqi state. What's more, the attacks were surely made easier to carry out by what is an undeniable sign of progress: the removal of blast walls from the Baghdad streets. This says less about the capabilities of Iraq's enemies than it does about the increasing normalization of life in the country (though risks do come with that). And by all accounts, the Maliki government responded to these attacks as well as could be expected.Let's not forget either that attacks like these still remain outliers in a far larger trend: Iraq's emergence as a normal country, with normal politics, a growing economy, and an increasingly capable government.