I just watched a video of Bush speaking from the Anbar province on his surprise visit to Iraq. I am no expert on what is happening on the ground in Iraq, but from what I have been reading there has been tremendous progress in stabilizing this once chaotic region. The points that are made as to the cause of the stability are: 1) Al Qaeda overplayed their hand in the amount of violence they used to gain influence in the region, causing militias and tribal leaders to oppose them, and 2) The U.S. is working with these tribal and militia leaders, who originally opposed the U.S. presence, in pushing out Al Qaeda and brining stability to Anbar.
This is of course a very positive outcome, but it strikes me that the U.S. did this without a real role for the central government of Iraq. Bush in his talk mentioned funds coming to Anbar from the Maliki government, but I would bet this is at the direction of the U.S. So that means that the greatest success of the U.S. occupation is due to working to unelected, factional leaders rather than an elected government. Meanwhile, the elected government that we are supposedly waiting on to accomplish something is basically spending its time defending itself against a barrage of rhetorical attacks. So — is the goal right now stability or having an elected government, whether it is functional or not?