There are only two possible outcomes in Iraq. One of them is not a peaceful, democratic Iraq where everyone lives in blissful co-existence. Iraq as we know it is finished. It has been for quite some time now. Now, only two bad alternatives remain. However, I think one is better than the other.
If the United States and regional powers cannot come to an agreement soon and the violence devolves any further, the US will be forced to withdraw and the most brutal leader in Iraq will emerge victorious and will be the strong man of the new Iraq (the Shiite and Sunni areas). This is the less desirable outcome (wow, that's one hell of a euphemism).
The strong-man/warlord/dictator will likely be Muqtada al-Sadr. But now increasingly it looks like it might even be someone more vicious working underneath Sadr (if that can be imagined). Regardless, the leader of the Mahdi Army, whoever that might be, will be the winner of the blood and gore fest that Iraq will soon become (and has to a large degree already become).
This outcome is so horrible, it is almost unimaginable. The violence in Iraq is already beyond description with people sewing dog's heads onto the bodies of decapitated little girls and with people showing up with drill holes in their heads (if they still have a head) every single day. Iraq has become a house of unspeakable horrors. And it only promises to get worse.
Our only hope is the second alternative - get everyone in the Middle East to work together to separate the Sunnis and the Shiites as soon as humanly possible. Yes, this outcome has huge downsides. There will be enormous human displacements, migrations and a significant amount of casualties in the process. But I guarantee you that is the sunnier outcome of the two possibilities in Iraq. The lesser of two evils has never described a situation better.
There is no time to lose. Iraq is devolving by the minute. The idea that the Bush team and their Republican enablers are still talking about progress and victory in Iraq is vomitously appalling. John McCain's idea of putting more American troops in Iraq in hopes of salvaging it would be comical if it weren't so pathetically late, feeble and dangerous.
My God, Cheney is still talking about full-speed ahead. The man has lost his mind. We're inches from the cliff, we need to slam on the brakes and swerve, not go full-speed ahead.
Hopefully, we are beyond these ridiculous ideas in America with the overwhelming results in the 2006 elections behind us. On the other hand, Iraq is our responsibility. We broke it, we own it. Withdrawal without a plan is not acceptable either.
"Staying the course" and "withdrawal" (or "redeployment" or whatever you want it call it) are not plans, they are tactics. After we have a plan, then we can execute one of these tactics as it makes sense within our broader plan. We have to know where we're going before we start heading in that direction.
If we stay the course, we know where we're heading - oblivion. If we withdraw without a plan, we know where we're heading - horrific, bloody civil war. But if we have a plan to split the warring parties up, stabilize the different parts of Iraq (or what used to be known as Iraq), and then withdraw in a timely manner and assure all the regional powers and ethnic concerns that we will not be occupying Iraq - then the tactic of redeployment makes sense within the context of our broader goals.
Staying in Iraq indefinitely has never made any sense and should not be considered an option by any reasonable people. So, the question that remains isn't whether we're going to leave Iraq, but how? We can either withdraw unilaterally and leave a mess behind, or we can try to salvage some solution to stop the bleeding before we leave (or as we leave).
I hope the Iraq Study Group understands the severity and the urgency of the situation - and urges immediate action. If we don't split up Iraq right now, it's going to tear itself apart at the seams in ways we can't imagine.
In my lifetime, I have never seen a country so enmeshed in chaos, blood, torture and mayhem. We've got to separate the warring parties as soon as possible. This solution is not pretty, but it can work. It has worked in the past. The former Yugoslavia was split up in a way that minimized the greater damage that could have been done. Cyprus was split in way that was less than desirable but avoided great bloodshed and endless fighting.
Send them to their corners, put up a wall, give it a century and then maybe they can get back together after generations have forgotten what their ancestors have done today.