Any Iraq/Afghanistan trade-off is not so heatedly debated at the moment. This comes as a result of:
- things calming down significantly in the former theatre (on relative terms, of course);
- Afghanistan now being more lethal than Iraq on absolute terms (the Afghan theatre used to be as dangerous for foreign soldiers as the Iraqi "only" when those killed in action were counted in proportion to all the troops present on the ground in the respective theatres);
- and with a new war getting in the way of a more promising Afghan campaign: the "Georgian-Ossetian-Russian-Georgian war" which has transformed into a "Georgian-Ossetian-Russian-Georgian/American + European conflict."
Now there's an interesting study published by the German Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, by Christopher Chivvis, with the title What role for Germany in Iraq? I'd include here excerpts from it, but the pdf they are using doesn't allow that (which is not a very smart thing!). The gist of it is that political consolidation in Iraq cannot be taken for granted yet, and European interests may be harmed more by instability there than American interests could be. So Chivvis is arguing for increased German activity in several areas, past concerns about the Iraq war's legality notwithstanding. Interestingly, he notes the potentially beneficial effect of Iraqi consolidation on oil prices as one of the key European stakes.
I don't find his argumentation flawed, so what I'll add should in no way be interpreted as though I'd be mocking this paper. But it's funny how now, that Iraq is not so dangerous any more, and the "dirty" - i.e. non-UN-backed - intervention has been carried out by the U.S., some even in one of the chief opposition countries, in Germany, are thinking that "you know what, actually it doesn't matter so much that the war was illegal according to some international lawyers, and, yeah, well, oil is of course bloody important for us, too... As to that weapons of mass destruction thingee, well, we, Germans, did, of course, supply intelligence to the Americans ourselves that appeared to back up their pre-war claims (e.g. stuff coming from Agent Curveball about mobile biological weapons laboratories), but, hey, they can't complain - they were way too overeager to use what they were fed." Don't get me wrong, Chivvis' paper comes reflecting already circulating views, so this doesn't originate from him specifically.
Historical irony aside, my only concern about this newfound enthusiasm for "doing more for Iraq," with at times "energy security partnership" mentioned as a buzzword, is that this may again be something for which "the cost could be Afghan." It's a vicious circle indeed. Many European countries that are looking for the chance to do something important and yet not casualty-risky for the U.S., like running PRTs and militarised development in areas of Afghanistan only mildly affected by insurgency, might find Iraq another place where now symbolically important substitute commitments can be made. Commitments that may also help them to economic advantages which have become more vital with the recent deterioration of relations with Russia.
Of course Germany is one of the prime candidates for this, and they are exactly one of those who are not so keen on taking a hard stance against Russia. For them the substitute commitment side to this is the more dominant one.