David Brooks describes that it has taken five years for (him and other) "policy makers" and self-described experts to grasp the obvious:
Most American experts and policy makers wasted the past few years assuming that change in Iraq would come from the center and spread outward. They squandered months arguing about the benchmarks that would supposedly induce the Baghdad politicians to make compromises. They quibbled over whether this or that prime minister was up to the job. They unrealistically imagined that peace would come through some grand Sunni-Shiite reconciliation.The tribal nature of Iraq is hardly a state secret. I and many others who don't even pretend to be experts have been discussing that appraoch from the outset.
Now, at long last, the smartest analysts and policy makers are starting to think like sociologists. They are finally acknowledging that the key Iraqi figures are not in the center but in the provinces and the tribes. Peace will come to the center last, not to the center first. Stability will come not through some grand reconciliation but through the agglomeration of order, tribe by tribe and street by street.
The problem is not that it takes an "expert" or "policy maker" to recognize that it had greater potential to work than Bush's plan. The problem was that Bush pushed anybody who opposed his plan out of the room, and required that everybody else to provide cover for his notion of a quick invasion, reinvention of the nation, and departure, at minimum cost. Starting locally was always far more realistic than creating a national government, but that approach was inconsistent with the Bush Administrations fantasies of candy and flowers, as well as with the "product" it was trying to sell to the American consumer.
David, the actual experts have been out there all along. All you had to do was listen to them.