In a new paper (pdf), Douglas Ollivant pushes back against "the New Orthodoxy" that emphasizes the role of the US military in decreasing violence in Iraq:
I argue that the crisis of violence in Iraq in 2006-2008 was fundamentally a political problem that the U.S. lacked the capability to resolve, though the U.S. presence and strategy did shape the context in which the several Iraqi actors made their calculations. Because the New Orthodoxy focuses on military factors, rather than political questions, it is unable to fully explain the reduction in violence in Iraq. By reframing the problem, the key factors in the reduction of violence emerge more clearly.
First, the Sunni casualties in the civil war reached an accumulated total that made it clear that continued conflict would not result in a favorable outcome for Sunnis, which incentivized Sunni elites to find a political settlement. Second, Shi’a leaders generally, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki particularly, desired to consolidate power and accumulate wealth. This desire required a certain level of stability. Third, the development of key Iraqi governmental institutions, most notably the army, gave the central government the ability to counter other destabilizing elements—in particular AQI and the various Sadrist militias—as the civil war began to taper off. Fourth, the United States provided a necessary package of support, including unequivocal political support from the highest levels, separation of the warring parties, a softer tactical approach, and the killing by U.S. forces of extremist Sunni and Shi’a elements who were blocking compromise…
Andrew Exum endorses the "excellent paper":
Doug knows enough to know that we cannot definitively determine what caused the 2007 drop in violence, but he advances what he calls "an alternative, counter-narrative" to those offered by Tom Ricks, Bob Woodward, Kim Kagan, Linda Robinson and others.
And Sean Kane checks in on the Iraqi political situation as the country experiences an uptick in violence.