government positions, and sanctioning Shi'ite consolidation of power over the government andsecurity forces, the US has been presented with a series of "lesser-of-two-evils" choices in itspursuit of democracy promotion, democratization, stability, and security.The first major choice the US had to make was whether to support the Shi'ite-dominatedgovernment, led by Nouri Al-Maliki, or try to break it down. The official US policy was tosupport an Iraqi nationalist government so it stuck with Maliki, even after he was found to haveroutinely rounded up Sunnis, allowed sectarian conflict to clear Sunnis out of Shi'iteneighborhoods, and imprisoned and tortured competitors in prisons to retain power.The US also decided to arm and pay the Sunnis to stop attacking Americans, a decisionimplemented by General David Petraeus and his senior advisors. This, more than the Surge, ledto a massive dropoff in violence to achieve Petraeus' goal of building a security space to allow forpolitical progress. As Thomas Ricks wrote in his excellent book "The Gamble" about the years2006-2008 in the Iraq War:
"Petraeus laid the groundwork for that approach in the letter he issued to thetroops as he left Iraq. While the initiative had been retaken, he expressed disappointmentabout the political state of Iraq. “Many of us had hoped this summer would be a time of tangible political progress at the national level,” he wrote. “One of the justifications forthe surge, after all, was that it would help create the space for Iraqi leaders to tackle thetough questions and agree on key pieces of ‘national reconciliation’ legislation. It has not worked out as we had hoped.” It would be hard to charge that he was being rosy aboutIraq."
It is unfortunate, however, that the US, by virtue of its occupation, has put Iraq on atrack far from democratic consolidation, as now Iraq is a weak nation with little economicoutput and many outsiders hoping to carve out influence within its borders. The US, occupyinga land where tribal relations dominate, is the strongest tribe, as Bing West titled his book aboutthe American occupation of Iraq.But the US has had to ratchet back its plans in Iraq, seeking stability instead of democratization for the time being. Tom Ricks:
"There was good reason for this quiet ratcheting down. As Steven Metz, an astutestrategic analyst, put it, encouraging democracy was at odds with the larger goal of
Ricks, Thomas. "The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventurein Iraq, 2006-2008", Penguin Press HC, 2009, Kindle version, highlight location 4812-4816.