"There is more than ample evidence that Iraqis are willing to fight and die, they are just not willing to fight and die for us." - Mike
There are a ton of things working against us (going wrong) in Iraq, but one that seems to get very little coverage is the diversion of interests between the US goals and the Iraqis themselves.
In the coverage of Iraq, exampled especially sharply in the "benchmark" stories this week, there is very little exploration of the motivations of the Iraqis. The backline assumption seems to be that the Iraqis want the same things that the US does, but lack the coordination/will/competence to pull it off. That is wrong.
Perhaps the best immediate example is the existence of the Maliki government itself. The US is trying to push "political reconciliation" within the current governmental construct, but the Iraqis see no point to this process. The Maliki government lacks legitimacy, and the general expectation in Iraq is that this government will, sooner more likely than later, fracture and fall.
There is no clear sense among the Iraqis what might come next and because of the political stakes of laying out claims to the power and economic wealth for the next half century, they are far more concerned with positioning themselves within the post Maliki context than they are trying to hit some sort of external governmental "benchmarks" provided by the US.
This is why nothing is getting done. Why should politicians, or for that matter any Iraqi, commit themselves to this government when it lacks any real legitimacy? How can you ask Iraqis to join the military and police and risk their lives for a government that is perceived to be on the edge of collapse?
Right now, the tribal and factional groups are substantially more stable entities and that's why they have so little trouble finding support.
Maliki was originally brought forward to lead the country as a relatively unknown precisely because he had no large political constituency. The thinking was that this lack of backing would force him to knit a coalition without significant favor to any particular faction. Instead, what has developed is weak government unable to accomplish even basic tasks.
The Iraqis are now simply waiting. Waiting for Maliki to fall, waiting for the US to withdraw, waiting for whatever comes next. Their concern is not US declared benchmarks or the US conception of a unity government. Their concern is positioning themselves for what comes after.
And all the effort, and all the lives spent in the interim are just wasted.