I attended a talk today by Stephen Biddle, a first-rate military strategist who has been working with General Petraeus, about military progress in Iraq (Nora Bensahel of RAND and Lawrence Korb of CAP also spoke). I had to leave before the Q+A, so can't say anything about the full event, only about his half-hour long opening remarks. Overall, he presented a rosier portrait than I would have, based on his recent ten day visit to Iraq, but he's a serious guy so I take him seriously - though I noticed that he concentrated almost exclusively on the local level progress and hardly mentioned Maliki or the national political level at all. Without getting in to his arguments or my reservations, I just wanted to lay out Biddle's best case scenario as he presented it: if everything goes right and if the US continues to "hit the lottery" with the spread of local ceasefires and none of a dozen different spoilers happens, then a patchwork of local ceasefires between heavily armed, mistrustful communities could possibly hold if and only if the US keeps 80,000-100,000 troops in Iraq for the next twenty to thirty years. And that's the best case scenario of one of the current strategy's smartest supporters. Man.