Specifically, I'm interested in whether or not the security situation has improved to the extent that a real, lasting peace process can begin within Iraq itself.
There have been cease-fires before, and indeed there currently are several important ones ongoing: Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has put the guns away, and the Sunni tribes of the west, especially Anbar province, are also not currently in a state of open hostility with the government. Major joint military operations have enabled the government to extend it's sovereignity to areas, including Sadr city, that have been off limits for years.
As a result of all this, the Iraqi government is getting more assertive. How effective that can be is still to be determined, but it is heartening to see Iraqi politicians being able to stand up to the US, especially on the most politically damaging issues for them like blanket legal immunity for American security contractors.
I'm curious whether the Bush administration is feeling a bit betrayed. After all, they probably didn't go to the fantastic expense of invading and occupying the country with the intention of creating a country that would defy them even before the dust had settled. But that's factional democracy for you, always thinking of their constituents first.
But, to return to the main thrust of the question, have we actually reached a point where an independent, democratic Iraq is an attainable goal? That it might be possible, if the cards continue to fall our way, that the US could be out of Iraq much sooner than the military had previously expected? It wasn't so long ago, after all, that we were hearing that a substantial American military presence would be needed in Iraq until 2018.
As is typical with these questions, I'd like to keep the scope here rather limited. Whether or not a success validates the actions of the American government or military isn't what I'd like to focus on, and can easily distract us from the point.
That said, what do other people think about the course of the Iraq war?