Allawi is precisely the kind of leader the uninformed pundit class loves. Just as David Broder can wax pathetic about Michael Bloomberg for his “leadership” and “post-partisan” positioning, other observers label Allawi “tough” and “non-sectarian.” These kind of vague labels are music to the ears of pundits, neocons, and deluded war supporters alike, and Allawi gets disproportionate attention because he is essentially a Westerner. He speaks English well, is comfortable among elites from London to Amman to Washington, and knows that the surest route to political acceptance in the US is a massively expensive lobbying campaign by former Bush administration officials. But when it comes down to it, Allawi has about as much support for Iraqi PM as Bloomberg does for US president . . . and from the same types of people.
Like Americans, Iraqis have preferences about issues. If they wanted “non-sectarian” leaders, they would have elected them in January ’05. Or December ’05. Or the parliament would pass a vote of no-confidence — remember, Iraq isn’t like the American system; there the parliament can topple the PM anytime with a majority vote. The fact that they haven’t jettisoned Maliki should be a big glowing sign that there’s no consensus alternative. The country is majority religious Shia, and that fact is reflected in the government. It’s true that even the religious Shia parties aren’t getting along, but the idea that Allawi would improve things is ludicrous. Anyone who claims otherwise doesn’t understand Iraq.
I still find it mystifying that Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin decided to get out in front of this thing by calling for the removal of Maliki. The danger of winding up once again in a “you broke it, you bought it” situation seem pretty extreme.