Asked to compare their lives today with conditions before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the proportion of Iraqis who say things are better now has slipped below half for the first time. Forty-two percent say their lives have improved, down from 51 percent in 2005 and 56 percent in 2004. Thirty-six percent now say things in their lives are worse today, up from 29 percent in the 2005 poll, which was taken during a period of relative optimism ahead of parliamentary elections. Twenty-two percent say their lives are about the same.Another poll conducted by a British media researching company was a bit more optimistic:
MOST Iraqis believe life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein, according to a British opinion poll published today.In either case, the perception that life has improved is hardly surprising, since the Baathists have been removed from power and a Shiite coalitional majority now controls the Iraqi government. The results predictably breakdown along sectarian lines:
The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week.
Assessments of the government in Baghdad reflect sectarian and ethnic differences. About three-quarters of Shiites and Kurds have confidence in the government, while just 8 percent of Sunnis feel that way. Similarly, two-thirds of Shiites and six in 10 Kurds approve of the prime minister's work, but only 3 percent of Sunnis do so.Both surveys reveal a majority of Iraqis believing that things will improve once multinational forces leave the country. After four years of slugging it out with mostly Sunni militias, training a mostly Shia security force and military, and legitimizing majority (Shia) rule, it's not surprising that most Shiites are ready for the coalition to shove off. We've obliterated their sectarian antagonists and handed the reigns over to them. From their perspective it's best for us to depart now before we start getting too even-handed and begin protecting Sunni communities.
Many Kurds probably see the coalition's departure as a green light for an even more autonomous Kurdish north--one that feels no pressure to act when called upon by Baghdad to play mediator in escalating Arab Sunni-Shia fighting.
The Iraq War has removed a secular Persian antagonist from the heart of the Middle East and installed a Shia-dominated government friendly to Iran. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and other moderately pro-US Muslim governments are increasingly worried about the threat a Shia Iraq poses. Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern coastline is home to most of the kingdom's Shiites. Just across the Persian Gulf is Iran, with an Iraqi buffer separating the two by land.
We should follow the footsteps of our largest partner in the invasion and begin pulling out. Most Iraqis want us gone. By a margin of 63% to 35% most Americans do as well. Due to the high number of injuries compared to fatalities the US has absorbed during the war, the human cost is going to remain a living legacy similar to that of Vietnam. The foundational support of Congress for the war has vanished because of the war itself. It's over. Yet with most Iraqis saying life is more auspicious now than under Saddam, a democratically-based election system in place, and lots of IED-making militants in the ground, with heart-over-chest we can still profess dignity and success as the US military executes a troop drawdown.
The Bush administration is continuing to dig its heels in, however. On the war's fourth anniversary, the President pleaded for more time to allow the latest corner-turning tactical adjustment to take effect. He has less than two years left. He may, despite widespread consanguinety, an estimated average IQ of 87, Middle Eastern tribalism, widespread poverty, a professional class exodus, and Islam, still believe that Iraq can come out the way he initially imagined it would. Or, less nobly, he may be trying a "decent interval" strategy to keep the US involvement in Iraq alive long enough to pass it on to a Democratically-controlled Congress and Whitehouse to deal with.