As Bush flies to Jordan and Iraq spirals into civil war, it is quite clear that the Iraq war has not come out the way that the Bush administration--and I--had thought it would. The majority of the Iraqi people have spoken up for democracy with their votes, supporting our Wilsonian belief that rogue states can be turned into law-abiding nations. But there are at the very least tens of thousands of Iraqis who are willing to kill their fellow-citizens in order to stop that from happening.
So what is to be done?
The Administration is looking for a way to bail out. That would be a mistake. We helped break it--Saddam and the Baath Party and the Republican Guard and that lot are, of course, responsible for most of the breakage, but we helped--and so we've bought it. Whether the United States likes it or not, once you take responsibility for fixing a country, you'd better follow through and fix it, or be taken a lot less seriously by the rest of the world for years.
Strategically, the US and the rest of the world cannot afford to let Iraq become another Taliban Afghanistan, hosting and sheltering Al Qaeda and other terrorists.
The thing to do, I think, is recognize that the artificial borders drawn by the colonial powers after World War I in which they split up the former Ottoman Empire are just that--purely artificial, and an impediment to peace. Iraq is a melange of three different areas which have little in common with one another, only one of which is violent.
Split up Iraq. Make the Kurds in the North and the Shiites in the south independent. If the Shiites decide they want to ally with Iran, fine. If the Turks don't like an independent Kurdistan, fine. But those places are capable of taking care of themselves. We should pull out of there and let them handle their own business.
As for the central region around Baghdad, mostly Sunni but with a large Shiite minority, where the great majority of the violence is happening, it is quite clearly not capable of taking care of itself. Both Al Qaeda and Saddamite insurgents are committing mass murder there, and Shiite groups are doing the same, with the government trying to deal with both of them. The situation has grown so ugly that it is time for a very ugly response.
The Americans are going to have to go in hard and launch a major offensive in the Sunni Triangle in order to severely damage the Al Qaeda-Saddamite organization. The killers cannot be allowed to keep killing. If we can't do that, we need to admit defeat and bail out, which would then be followed by global retrenchment and an abandonment of at least some international commitments, along with the movement of popular opinion toward isolationism, and probably European-style protectionism and nativism. I wouldn't like for that to happen.