This Administration, obsessed with military dominance and personal loyalty, will never take the internal actions necessary to stabilize Iraq. What I have listed here is hardly a solution, but steps that seem necessary to make success in Iraq conceivable at all.
1. Accountability. The time for puffy posturing is long, long over. The public face of the invasion and subsequent intransigence must be fired: Rumsfeld, Bolton, Cheney, and immediate minions: out. Every day they are in office is a day more American soliders get killed. Every day they are in office, America's ability to act becomes narrowed. Our diplomacy is fatally hung up on these personalities.
2. Beg our allies. Step 1 is necessary to make step 2 even slightly plausible. We must assemble a very large international policing
force to secure, at least, Bagdad and suburbs. This part civilian, part military force must be trained for occupation and civil administration, not assault. The US could lead this effort, but Iraq is dying from a kind of mafia war more than anything: we need Eliot Ness, not Patton. We must bait for peace: make it clear to the Insurgents that accepting an international, NATO-UN policing force means less U.S. troops. This police force must be overwhelming in size and authorized to kill to protect civilians. We desperately need a neutral authority in Iraq, as the police degenerate into death squads and our own troops succumb with increasing frequency to brutality.
3. Negotiate with Insurgents. It happens already, even commonly. It must become national policy- led by the State Department with the Pentagon out of the way. We have to give up the permanent bases we're building - to NATO or the UN or both. We have to make it possible for Iraqis to succeed politically in Iraq without street murder and yet without appearing to be collaborators with the U.S, which invaded, De-baathified, and totally destabilized the political structure. This is why international forces are absolutely necessary - a potential source of cooperation. It guarantees nothing, but it makes progress possible.
4. Take care of urgent business. As international police forces move in, withdraw troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban are resurgent. Again, assault, secure and internationalize. It's what worked in WWII, but we've failed horribly at part 2 and 3 in Iraq.
5. The U.S. should throw a curve ball by proposing the internationalization of Jerusalem. We've been supporting and arming the bombing of Lebanon, which is setting things much farther back than they already were - Lebanon was a wobbly but functioning democracy a few weeks ago, and a stable civilian government MIGHT have been able to undercut Hezbolah's legitimacy, and eventually lead to their disarmament, or at least the transfer of control of the arms to an actual government. We have to distance ourselves from Israel, while standing by its essential safety, but we're doing precisely the opposite. This proposal alone would give us new negotiating power.
But absolutely none of this or anything like it will be done. The egos of those in our government will prevent any responsive diplomacy, and will continue to perpetrate their incompetence. Neo-liberal Tom Friedman, a long, long supporter of the invasion, calls the situation "baby-sitting a civil war."
Without a major shift in our leadership, the most likely non-bloody outcome may be Iranian dominance of Iraq, as Syria is in Lebanon. You might compare the situation to Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1979, which did end the organized genocide of the Khmer Rouge, though with plenty of brutality to go around.
The other likely scenario is endless cycles of death and murder. I'd give us about an 18% of some sort of awkward success with the current plan, which will continue until 2009. We have no real actions to take under this Administration
that will improve Iraq, less to "win" it, although the sheer skill of the U.S. military will mitigate it's deterioration. That will take American lives. So the question becomes: how many American lives are worth preventing a significantly worse civil war in Iraq over the next three years? Are we just buying time until we can change governments here?
The intrasigence of the Bush Administration will likely be the cause of our defeat.