Ever since the idea of an American victory in Iraq evaporated the debate has been about whether the US forces should leave. Last year it was fashionable to say that American forces in Iraq were actually fueling the insurgency. So they are. The pitch today, however, is that the United States must not leave because it would all be so much worse if they did.
They're probably right. A departure of American forces from Iraq will probably spark a measure of instability that will lead to increased violence and death. Let's change a few words around. Instead of "A departure of American forces", let's say "When the American forces depart" and leave the timing entirely out of it. That way you can say "When the Americans leave next year" or "When the Americans leave in four years" almost interchangeably. Do that and add the words, "it will probably spark a measure of instability that will lead to increased death and violence."
The ongoing American presence in Iraq is fueling the insurgency, increasing violence. Fair enough. When the Americans withdraw their presence that will increase the levels of violence. Hard to dispute that. What's missing from this perplexing equation is that so much of this violence will occur regardless of whether the Americans stay for one year or four. That's because much of the violence has nothing at all to do with the Americans themselves, except for their role in precipitating it.
America toppled Saddam. You won't find any disagreement about that. When they got rid of Saddam, however, they let the genie out of the bottle. That act ordained what remains to be played out whether it's next year or two years from now or six or whatever. The Americans 'enabled' the civil war that exists today but they didn't create it. The distinction goes a long way to explaining why the US has been so hapless to control it, much less stop it. The cork in the bottle was Saddam. They pulled the cork from the bottle. They released the genie but they didn't create the genie.
Those of us who feel Washington shouldn't have done it are well-intentioned but the argument is irrelevant, moot. What's done is done and it will be played out - eventually.
There's no good answer but not all options are equally bad. Here's one that may cause the least damage: get US forces out and Muslim forces in. Mix'em up, so they're a blend of Shia and Sunni but leave them all under a single, unified command with American oversight.
This won't prevent sectarian violence, there's no way of guaranteeing that. It may, just may, however make the dangers the responsibility of the greater Arab Muslim world, removing the infidels from the equation.
Just imagine, then the United States might be able to take all those relieved divisions and place them under NATO control to address all the problems they created by turning their backs on Afghanistan five years ago.
Just a thought.