Since the Iraq issue is getting a little stale, and since our final starts in a few minutes, I think it's time to present a few alternative opinions:
If Iraq is truly in a state of civil war, then America is achieving its objectives. We have engaged terrorist groups in open combat, identified the states that assist them, and begun detracting from their broad support base.
The invasion of Iraq did not occur in a vacuum, but rather within the context of the war on terror. Much of this has been lost in the fog of language and politics that has billowed out of Baghdad since March of 2003. The primary objective, as in Afghanistan, was to engage terrorist groups and the states that supported them in open combat where we have the advantage.
We look at Iraq, the growing number of attacks on Iraqii civilians and coalition troops, and we say, "The US occupation is creating more terrorists." This is only partly true. The US invasion of Iraq created more terrorists in the sense that it identified those groups waiting for a chance to attack the United States. Except now, instead of hitting our soft targets, they attacked the troops. Directly engaging the enemy; that was one of our goals, and we achieved it.
I'll be honest. In the deepest, darkest, coldest corner of my heart, I think that civil war in Iraq is a victory. If you have a civil war, you have multiple groups that consider themselves part of the same country - you have national identity. We have focused the world's attention on the sectarian violence in Iraq, which is directed against Sunnis and Shias first. Attacking Americans is of secondary importance. When the Middle Eastern news agencies look at Iraq, regardless of how they narrate it, their audiences see Iraqiis killing Iraqiis and Muslims killing Muslims, and they seem to carry out these killings with Iranian guns, Syrian bombs, Sunni Al-Qaeda training and Shia Hezbollah support.
When the Baker report talks about engaing Iran and Syria, they shouldn't be talking about engaging Mahmoud and Bashar. They should be engaging the Iranian and Syrian people. These people are not angry at Americans for being godless and Christian - they're angry at Americans for not stopping the killing. You don't see Iranians and Iraqis coming out and chanting for Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and teorrism. They want peace, justice and an end to the killing. They're angry at us because they believe we can stop it, and we don't. It's fair to say that Iraq is dispelling the idea that Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or other terrorist groups can bring peace and justice to the Middle East. A mullah can still start a riot amongst the poorest and disenfranchised, but the days are gone when the Ayatollah can instruct the nation's youth to riot and attack any nearby Americans. We still make it easy for Middle Eastern demagogues to blame America for every social, economic and political ill, but Arabs and Persians are learning to tell the difference. With genocide on the horizon, they know who's going to be doing the killing.
So, we've directly engaged the terrorists, killed many, and captured hundreds for interrogation. We've begun erroding public support for terrorist groups, radical Islamic organizations and fanatical Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda. We may not have accomplished this in the most efficient manner, but we've done it. We have achieved almost all of the goals that can be achieved with military force.
Well, maybe we still need to bunker down with the Kurds in northern Iraq - who actually like us, imagine that. But besides that, more or less done.
Now it is time for the other side of America's power, diplomacy and soft power. Unfortunately, if anyone thinks that our military was poorly equipped to handle 4-G warfare in Iraq, then they should look at how ill-prepared our army of diplomats is to handle the 4-G statecraft nightmare that is the Middle East. America's superior firepower can defeat any body, but it's the mind we have to defeat to achieve our ultimate objectives in Iraq and the Middle East. That's not a job for guns.
To summarize: the US is winning in Iraq. We're killing the enemy, eroding their support and awaking a real democratic conscience in the Middle East from the bottom-up.
There's a long term struggle in play, and a grand game plan that will change form as Congress and the White House change hands along the road. And the test just arrived by email, so good luck everyone.