The American people are going to have to make a hard call very soon. Do they want their country to stay embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan and, for many Americans, that's an incredibly tough call.
Iraq is heading south, fast. Remember the Petraeus "Surge" and the "Awakening" under which Sunni resistance fighters, with American backing and money, turned on their former al-Qaeda comrades? Well, that was then, this is now. The American media are reporting that those former enemies turned allies are turning yet again, frustrated by a Shiite government that they believe hasn't kept its promises and lured to al-Qaeda by a better financial deal. Oopsie, Surge unsurged! The rebirth of the Sunni/Baathist resistance. Damn!
Then there's Muqtada al Sadr and his long dormant Mahdi Army. Muqtada has been laying low in Iran waiting to make his move and that's anticipated to coincide with next year's scheduled withdrawal of American forces. Sadr is expected to make a move on the Shia leadership before launching a crackdown on the Sunni. Any way you cut it, that's nothing but ugly.
Add to that the unresolved grievances and claims of the Kurds in the north, especially the flashpoint referendum on the future of Kirkuk and the surrounding, oil-rich region. Out of fear of igniting a powderkeg that referendum has been put through a series of postponements but the Kurds will have to seize the region or face losing it once the Americans depart. Great - Kurd versus Arab, Sunni & Shia.
Then there's neighbouring Iran waiting to back the most pro-Iranian figurehead that emerges from the struggles. With Iraq's oilfields potentially in jeopardy, that's a bitter pill for the U.S. to swallow.
L. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul of Iraq who botched everything he touched there, may have got one thing right. He predicted that all the key issues affecting the future path of Iraq would be decided after the United States' presence was gone. That seems to be the way this is playing out.
Poor Barack Obama. Bush bailed at the end of his second term, dumping this steaming load of horse manure in his successor's lap. That's the best exit any Frat Boy could hope for and he got it. Now Obama has to take the hiding for leaving Iraq and watching it fall apart or staying and ensuring it fails later. Some choice.
And how Obama decides to deal with Iraq will reverberate both on Main Street, USA and in Kabul, Afghanistan where he's saddled with Bush's other misconceived, misconducted and hapless war of whim. How Obama plays the Iraq conundrum will shape his policies on Afghanistan. He runs a very real risk of failing on both wars.