Iraq: Let's not "kid" ourselves, the Maliki government appears to be reverting to Shia sectarian "protectionism" as its basic policy. Success in creating security and governmental "reach" in Iraq has been based on inclusion of Sunni Arab groups (tribes, parties, etc) in the country's polity. The US did that and dragged the Maliki along behind it in the drection of that policy. Did money play a part in that? Of course it did. Does anyone "here" live without money? Well, neither can the Sunni Arabs in Iraq. Now the Shia dominated government there is showing signs of seeking to "put down" the Sunni Arabs. The predictable response has been for those Sunni Arabs to begin once again to support the Sunni extremist enemies of the Shia. This phenomenon has little to do with the impending US troop withdrawal except that this future seems to have made the Maliki government feel free to "get on with" its true agenda. This problem is something that can be dealt with if the US exerts itself and stops "kidding itself" about the nature of the Maliki government and the limits of national unity in Iraq.
Afghanistan: The announced Obama policy set the goals as essentially negative actions intended to confound and disrupt America's enemies. Covert action, limited SOF commando strikes, political support for our friends, some measure of basic infrastructure aid (roads, etc), these would be the kind of tools in such an effort. In spite of the announcement of these reasonable goals and implied actions, there continues to be a constant drum beat of talk, leaks, panel discussions in which people both within and without the administration insist that the real policy is a full blown COIN campaign in which the United States will commit itself to an effort to create a socety in Afghanistan so attractive that rural Pushtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen, etc. will support a unifying national government against Islamic zealots who do not believe in the legitmiacy of national governments at all. Such an effort would be hugely expensive and would last for decades. Well, which is it, Obama Administration, which is it? These two visions of the future are not comptible. pl