Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates offered a not-too-robust summation of the situation in Iraq, this after a whirlwind tour earlier in the month of several (safe) countries in the Middle East, excluding Iraq (Gates Offers a Blunt Assessment on Iraq.)
Gates "acknowledged that the Bush administration may have misjudged the difficulty of achieving reconciliation among sectarian factions." But, "My hope is that it can all be patched back together."
Feeling like the late comic Sam Kinison here -- people, they never did have it together. You can't have reconciliation if you never had conciliation. You can only patch a bicycle tire so many times before it loses its integrity.
He said "the administration would have to balance the relative lack of progress on the political front with the somewhat encouraging trends in the security realm when it prepared its review in September. . ."
However, those "somewhat encouraging security trends" come at a cost. Tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of thousands of security contractors paid for by Uncle Sam. In a recent expose of cost overruns for two British subcontracting firms, the WaPo reported:
"The size of this force and its cost have never been documented. The Pentagon has said that about 20,000 security contractors operate in Iraq, although some estimates are considerably higher. . .Several lawmakers have recently sought to regulate the private security industry and account for billions of dollars spent on outsourcing military and intelligence tasks that once were handled exclusively by the government.
"The payments 'are immense and probably shocking to a lot of people, but they represent just two companies within one sector,' said Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who wrote a book on private security and has advocated greater oversight of the industry. "We're talking tip-of-the-iceberg stuff here. That's pretty disturbing when you begin to extrapolate it out" (U.S. Pays Millions in Cost Overruns for Iraq Security.)
The truth is, there is no effective Iraqi government, nor is there security, except when delivered by U.S. force of arms.