When Dexter Filkins left Baghdad in 2006, it was a city of shuttered buildings and fearful citizens, in a land that looked as though it would never recover from war. But, writes the war correspondent in the New York Times, “to return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope”
—reopened, packed shops, people outside at night, women walking alone.
The relative peace can be traced to the troop surge, built on the idea that the majority of Iraq was tired of the attacks of a small number of militants, and to the help of Sunni Awakening fighters on the US payroll, Filkins observes. But the calm seems fragile as America prepares to withdraw troops and the prime minister talks of disbanding the Awakening Councils, whose members once targeted him.