For the last three years, Bartle Bull has contributed to Prospect a series of dispatches from Iraq that have taken a noticeably more optimistic view of the post-conflict society than most coverage in the western press. His first Prospect piece, in the November 2004 issue, looked forward to the democratic transfer of power to Iraq’s Shia majority. In mid-2005, after spending five weeks in Baghdad embedded with Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, Bull described the increasing politicisation of a rebel group that less than a year earlier had been battling US troops in Najaf.
Now Bull has written what is likely to be his most controversial piece yet. In the current issue of Prospect, he argues that contrary to the bleak picture of Iraq painted almost universally, at least in the west, most of the big questions in Iraq have largely been settled, and mostly for the good. The country has not fallen apart. It has embraced the ballot box, in huge numbers. It has created a legitimate and fair constitution. It has avoided civil war. Power has been democratically transferred to the Shia majority, while minority rights have been safeguarded. The country has ceased to be a menace in the region. It has even emerged from the trauma of war, occupation and widespread bloodshed with a sense of national unity, as was clearly shown by the national celebrations following the country’s football victory in the Asian Cup in July.
This is an unsettling argument. Ir…