The greatest of these problems is, obviously, the ongoing civil war.
The notion that elections bring democracy by teaching people to be responsible for their own bad choices simply cannot work in a totally illiberal environment. Our military commitment has been far too small to support our political ambitions. We haven’t disarmed the militias and we haven’t held the territory we’ve cleared. Because we haven’t established security or handed a central power a monopoly of legitimate force, elections have backfired. We’ve been hoping that elections themselves would do the work that only a government monopoly of force and long-term cultural change can do.Stanley Kurtz points to the enormous power Moqtada al-Sadr has over the present and future of the Iraqi government and perhaps even the United State's future in Iraq.
He goes on to repudiate the Bush administration's path to war, something that, at the time, was repeatedly and endlessly pointed out to be a flawed creation. At the very minimum, critics pointed to President George H.W. Bush's decision not to take the fight to Bagdhad in 1991, citing the exact problems that have erupted during his son's endeavor.
Now it may well be that, even at the start, we lacked the political will to marshal sufficient military force: to enlarge our military, to go to war with Sadr, to enlarge our footprint in Iraq itself, and to keep central power in our hands for a longer period. But those are the things that would have been needed to begin to bring real democracy to Iraq. To believe we could democratize without all that–chiefly through elections themselves–was an error.