The flypaper that is Iraq

Along with Juan Cole, Patrick Lang is the most knowledgable and astute observer of Iraq, especially on military matters. Here is a snippet from (Advice for the Democratic Party) his take on the questions left for Congress by General Petraeus and Ambassador Croker, above all the question of withdrawing troops:

Nevertheless, we are stuck on the flypaper of Iraq. In my opinion a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, abandoning the protean mess that is the Iraqi government would result in such a disastrous situation that we can not afford to do that.

Some of the consequences?

- A rump state of Iraq in the south in which whichever Shia faction wins will become a satellite of the Iranian government. That government, if not dealt with through a prolonged and aggressive combination of diplomacy and potential military force will continue to act as a major sponsor of Islamic zealot movements and their terrorist manifestations. Iran will also take up a major role as arbiter of alignments and activity in the region.

- Kurdistan will become one of the saddest of experiments in national popular sovereignty that I know of. Would Turkey and Iran continue to tolerate the Kurdish aspiration to achieving something as close to independence as they can manage? I doubt it.

- Would the wide variety of Sunni Arab groups that are revolting against the takfiri jihadis coalesce into a integrated part of a renewed Iraq? Probably not, and among all the little de facto city states, sheikhdoms, etc, the surreptitious support and participation of the Sunni "neighbors" would continue. This means continued war indefinitely in Sunnistan.

- Would the jihadis find a way to re-establish themselves somewhere in Sunnistan? Probably.

What does that add up to in terms of the ultimate political effect of the war on the Democratic Party?

I predict that If you are seen to be the instruments of such a collapse, then you will be blamed for a catastrophe in which thousands of American soldiers will have died. The public will wrongly think that they died for nothing. The public will not blame Bush, Cheney, the AEI crowd. No. They will blame you. You will carry that can for many years.

Petraeus recommends a gradual withdrawal from this disaster. You don't want that? Have you really thought this through?

If you want to do something useful, pass resolutions tying up the president's freedom of action in regard to Iran. Make him come to you for permission to strike them. Show some real courage.

Read the whole thing:

UPDATE: For those who have not been following the run-up to the war in IRAN!,2933,296450,00.html

UPDATE: Petraeus on Iran:

UPDATE: Barnett Rubin an Afghan expert points to one of the consequences of the extended stay in Iraq and its fall-out in Afghanistand and Pakistan. It is, of course, not just a military problem, but a diplomatic one as well. The Bush Administration definitely suffers from ADD. Here is Rubin's recent post on "things fall apart."

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.

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