[John] Howard, as the most rhetorically surefooted of the Anglosphere’s three musketeers, had a good comeback to the suggestion that the Bush surge and the Blair drawdown are mutually incompatible: “Anybody who studies Iraq for five minutes,” he said, “knows that controlling Baghdad is infinitely more challenging than controlling Basra in the south. That is the reason why the Americans are increasing their numbers and the reason why, because of the relative improvement in Basra, the British are reducing their numbers.”
That would appear to make sense. … If the object is to transfer control to a competent Iraqi military, it would seem likely that a largely Shia army would be more likely to be able to assume control in the largely Shia south before it’s ready to police Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. But to the media and much of the political class throughout the Western world, almost by definition there can be no good news from Iraq: the Bush surge in Baghdad is bound to fail, the Blair handover in the south is bound to fail, and therefore Howard’s support for both or either or vice-versa is deluded. In strict numbers, London has been reducing – or “redeploying” or “withdrawing” – forces since 2003, when 46,000 British troops were holding down the southern third of Iraq single-handed.
Within a year, it was a fifth of that, and this latest drawdown is significant only because of the opportunity it affords Bush-bashers (and Howard-bashers) for some political sport. The southern provinces are as stabilised as they’re likely to get under any regime short of multi-decade colonialisation.
The whole thing is an especially worthwhile read, even by Steyn’s high standards.