Abu Muqawama thinks that the situation in Iraq really began to nosedive in April 2004, when Fallujah melted down and the Shia insurrection started in the south. Our friend Y., who has spent a lot more time in Iraq than either Kip or Abu Muqawama, thinks the nosedive began earlier, and that if he had to identify one moment in which Iraq really started to get bad, the dual attacks on the UN headquarters and Red Cross headquarters in Baghdad would be that moment. Had the international community stayed in Iraq -- and had the U.S. military been able to make the transition from major combat operations to population-centric COIN quicker -- stabilization efforts might have had more of a chance.
Killed in the attack on the UN headquarters was Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the UN's chief representative in Iraq. You may not like the UN or diplomats, but guys like Sérgio Vieira de Mello are more important in COIN than 90% of the weapons in the arsenal of the U.S. military. Samantha Power* has a new book on the man, and she made an appearance on the Colbert Report to hawk it.
*Speaking of Samantha Power, our friend Max Boot deserves praise and recognition for sticking up for her in the face of some pretty brutal attacks from his own magazine and others. Abu Muqawama knows and likes some of the folks who have piled on Power over the past month, and their attacks have generally been devoid of anything approaching class. Abu Muqawama doesn't know Noah Pollak, but my goodness, some of what this guy wrote contained not a shred of decency. Abu Muqawama trusts his readers will not ever let him make such grotesque personal attacks on people, though he suspects he's come close in the past, most notably when people describe civilians on the battlefield as "insurgent potentialities."