If it is foolish in a democracy to start a war without the confirmed support of public opinion, it is utter madness to escalate that war when the political will of the country has turned decisively against it, as the Congressional election returning a Democratic majority to power clearly demonstrated. But this is what George Bush is doing.
To argue that a new surge of forces somehow shows America's iron determination for victory is something everyone knows is not true. Thanks to the information age, every Sunni insurgent and Shiite death squad member grasps where the American public stands. Knowing the underlying will is not there, they will act accordingly --either melting into the woodwork and waiting out the occupation or the opposite, seeking as much blood from our hapless American troops as possible.
The truth is that Americans want out because there is no military solution in Iraq. Or rather, the only military solution to the insurgency is to REMOVE the occupying troops against whom the insurgency is aimed. As for the Shiite-Sunni civil war, the US overthrow of Saddam clearly unleashed it, but we didn't start it and we can't stop it no matter how many troops we send or how long they stay.
That is why the Iraq Study Group essentially concluded that the only realistic option is to cut our losses by cutting a political deal with whatever balance of forces exists on the ground and in the region. Nothing else can bring stability and an end to violence, which is the best that now can be hoped for.
Ignoring this reality, Bush seems to imagine himself as Winston Churchill standing steady and alone while the weak waver. In fact, Bush is like the younger Winston Churchill who sent British and Australian soldiers to their senseless slaughter in Gallipoli. Sending our young soldiers off to certain death or maiming when the objectives of their deployment can't be achieved amounts to the same kind of honor killings for the empire that Churchill engaged in.
The reality is that we didn't just overthrow Saddam, but broke the Iraqi state, as a leading Shiite
cleric in Iraq once put it to me. All the kings horses and all the kings men can't put it back together again. There will have to be some new configuration, inevitably some kind of confederation that separates yet links Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. As in all past history, the terms of that new political order will be determined by the actual balance of power on the ground. You can't build a nation from the outside.
As for US interests, let's don't fool ourselves that we can do without stable oil supplies from the
Middle East for the time being. The imperatives of coping with global warming will surely accelerate
our search for alternatives to carbon fuels, but that is not going to happen overnight anymore than democracy can be born in the region overnight.
What we have to contend with for the next 15 years or so -- until we can free ourselves from oil -- is containing the new martyr-minded Shiite dominance we have wrought at the expense of the Sunni autocracies who have been our petroleum-age allies. The ayatollahs have been let out of the bottle and can't be put back. The Shiite crescent of Jordanian King Abdullah's nightmares now exists. All we can do for the immediate future is come to a modus vivendi with Iran and its fellow -traveling mullahs much like we did with the Soviet Union over Eastern Europe.
In the long run our only exit strategy from the Middle East is an exit from the petroleum age.