Five years ago, in an essay in National Interest, Paul Saunders and I attempted to address the question of what victory in Iraq would look like. We concluded that success would include depriving al-Qaida of a base, closing Iraq's borders to foreign fighters, and the emergence of a central government capable of ensuring some degree of stability, without repressive methods or too close an alignment with Iran. "Americans and others will recognize victory," we wrote, "if we have managed to break the back of al-Qaida in Iraq and left in place an Iraqi government committed and able to prevent the jihadists from returning."
Given those criteria, has Iraq's democracy -- or "Iraqcracy", to use the term coined by Gen. David Petraeus -- delivered a result that will allow the United States to indeed proclaim victory and announce the termination of the Iraq enterprise that started in March 2003?
Post-election jockeying continues among Iraq's political parties and factions to determine the formation of the next ruling coalition, but several things already seem certain. First,although former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya bloc won the most seats in the National Assembly, he is in no position to decisively shape the next government. At best, he could put together a large and probably unwieldy coalition that might assure him a majority in parliament, but which would not give him the ability to push through his own vision for policy. Even if he should become prime minister, Allawi would be in no position to implement the ambitious agenda for regional transformation that some of the strongest proponents of the Iraq war unveiled back in 2003.