retail is for housewives...,
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japan is crowded...,
since at least last April I've been of the mind that the ship is completely sunk and we should get out. Simple math: where a is the incitement of a Sadrist uprising, b is Abu Ghraib et. al., c is the total non-existence of a reconstruction effort a year into the occupation, and where d is - most importantly - polling by USA Today showing a majority of Iraqis (57%) wanted the US out before either a or b happened. This gives us a+b+c+d = e, where e is get the fuck out of dodge, and take Negroponte with you.
Hence the inadequately shrill post at pandagon last May. Game over. Since then all we've done is take up the task of ruthlessly bombing residential centers, installed what is broadly considered a puppet government, desecrated holy places, demolished cemetaries, and pushed back elections into a non-forseeable future which - if they're ever held - will likely exclude broad segments of the population. Game over.
The fact that the gig is up has only slowly been seeping it's way into sluggish liberal minds, at least among those that have soap boxes, but it's finally seeped in enough where you can read about it in the newspapers, from people on the Council on Foreign Relations and in National Intelligence Estimates. William Odom has finally been joined by a small, correct, chorus. Game over, man, game over.
Among those dedicated to lost causes the pat response will be that if we leave there will be a civil war. This is foolishness. The US military is not in Iraq to prevent a civil war, it is there to prop up a puppet government. The strategy being persued is, in fact, directly contrary to the goal of decreasing the likelihood of civil war: if we wished to decrease the likelihood of civil war there would be an Iraqi national assembly with diplomatic protections guaranteed to representatives from insurgent factions and rebel-held towns (enough are in our occupation government already, anyway). Obviously if we want Iraqis to settle differences peacefully we'd have to at least attempt to facillitate this, rather than depending on the end of the gun to bring Iraqis together. This is the same assembly that should have been opened the minute we arrived in Bagdhad, were we at any point interested in letting Iraqis rule Iraq. Here we state the obvious: the alternative to war is negotiation.
Instead ongoing US violence and the failure (how can something that doesn't exist fail?) of reconstruction are pushing moderates into positions where they are compelled to sympathize with, support, and join the factions that organized violent resistance early on.
It's a fair testament to the Iraqis that so many have chosen from the start to oppose an extremely violent occupation through peaceful means - as noted 57% opposed the occupation last April and yet we're still counting mere hundreds of thousands of insurgents, not 14 million: let me know when that non-violent opposition finds space in American headlines. In the meantime the resistance continues growing, for obvious enough reasons.
The failure of occupation undermines moderate positions, and so increases the likelihood of civil war. There is no significant support for occupation, with perhaps the exception of the unoccupied Kurds (who are hardly in a position to put much faith in the US, but do anyway). The only comparable force to the US in terms of fomenting civil war are some number (thousands at the most) of foreign mujahadeen/wahhabist extremists of the Zarqawi stripe who are killing Iraqis at a pace comparable to the US military and likely doing so with the intent of inciting civil conflict. We have niether the intelligence capabilities nor bombs smart enough to rid Iraq of foreign terrorists: the only forces capable of that are those who tolerate them now because they believe their immediate cause - fighting the occupation - is just. If we don't want Iraq to be a terrorist haven far into the distant future the sooner we exit the better.
The US could play a positive role in Iraq once it ends the occupation: could is the operative word. Actual reconstruction, for example, funded by a homeward bound US and directed by Iraqis. Technical assistance. No shortage of expertise in State and elsewhere to facillitate diplomatic resolution of the myriad internal conflicts of interest, could we but neutralize our conflicts of interest in doing so. Maybe even US air power directed against rampaging militias, were they to rampage in some manner in which the interference of US air power served any good purpose. Iraqis, I'm sure, would have more ideas, were we to listen, but we have not listened to their demand that the US leave, and so we won't likely listen to any requests for our assistance. Nor will we so long as our foreign policy is held in a stranglehold by American exceptionalists, imperialists, and would-be hegemons - an increasing number of whom are finally coming to express the idea that we've once again royally fucked up despite all our utmost holy of intentions.
But we'll probably be too busy with the next war to worry about any of that.
Update 9/22: "Negotiations in Fallujah: Apparently with the U.S. excluded."