Here's something to read while you're waiting for the Crocker-Petraeus show to begin. Last fall, I hosted a debate between Colin Kahl and Brian Katulis about Iraq, which generated a tremendous amount of useful feedback around the web, in the comment threads and among expert groups of various kinds. The journal Middle East Policy, one of the leading journals in its eponymous field, agreed to publish a revised and updated version of the debate as a symposium. It is now out under the title "Thinking Strategically About Iraq." [Download mep_symposium_on_iraq.pdf ]
I think that the symposium demonstrates the range of hard thinking taking place on the center-left about Iraq, as well as what generally unites our critiques. Kahl offers an early version of his argument for using what he sees as the accomplishments of the surge to initiate hard bargaining with the Iraqi government and other actors in order to make a withdrawal possible. Katulis presents his argument for a "strategic reset" and a relatively rapid, complete withdrawal. And I offer my own take on the tension between American tactics and strategy, developing what was then a novel argument that the Crocker-Petraeus strategy was working against long-term American aims by strengthening the power of armed groups and political movements outside of state institutions. All of us updated the pieces significantly, taking into account the other essays and, of course, the criticisms and suggestions of the various online and offline commenters.
There were some unfortunate problems in the editorial process along the way, and the published version in the paper journal has a number of regrettable errors (including misidentifying one of the authors!). Those have (mostly) been corrected in the PDF version which will be available in the online archive. Of course, given the nature of Iraq policy and the time lag of even policy-oriented academic journals, there are parts which already feel dated. And it isn't as easy as it looks to convert an interactive online debate into a conventional journal format. Finally, I suppose in these times I need to point out that these all represent personal views and not any campaign. I hope that people involved in the Iraq debate find the symposium useful - download a PDF version at the above link!