There’s an idea going around that calls for Maliki’s (political) ouster are bad, and that Maliki is being made into a scapegoat. I disagree with this latter claim, since a scapegoat has to have a plausible chance of ridding a people of its sins, and I don’t think Maliki is up to the job. I certainly agree that replacing Maliki with another member from his party or the old SCIRI would hardly improve matters, since it is the sectarian nature of the government and its close ties to Sadr (who has now abandoned Maliki to the wolves) that have compromised it from the beginning.
Talking about dropping the Maliki government is premised on a mistaken idea that the supposedly conciliatory legislative agenda that has been stalled can actually be pushed through the Iraqi parliament, provided that we just find the right political helmsman to take the wheel of government. This is the mistaken view that the political situation in Iraq is salvageable in a form agreeable to Washington. It is the same kind of mistake that led Washington to endorse Maliki’s ministry in the first place. As far as it goes, forcing Maliki out would help some American pols score some points in the “blame the Iraqis, don’t blame me” game, but it would achieve little else. It would also help the White House by providing the President with a new pretext to say that “we must give the Iraqis more time.” A new prime minister would probably be followed by a change of other ministers, and there would be some delay before the government was ready to try to do much of anything. Those complaining about the slowness of political reconciliation would actually find themselves frustrated by the even slower movement as the new PM got his act together (assuming that he did). In the end, Maliki is not likely to have a successor any more capable of or willing to foster political reconciliation, since the major Shi’ite parties still thrive on communal conflict and the promise of continued Shi’ite predominance in government. The deep flaws of the current Iraqi government are a good argument not for Maliki quitting his job, but rather for us to quit Iraq.