You Know It's Time to Leave Iraq When...

09/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You need 1900 guards for your embassy more than six years after the invasion. Reports the Washington Post:

The U.S. Embassy has 88 special agents who supervise about 1,300 security contractors and 1,900 perimeter guards. The Iraqi government is expanding access to the Green Zone, where the embassy is located, and two large U.S. military bases near the embassy will close over the next couple of years. American military officers are training Iraqi soldiers who patrol the Green Zone.

You have to spend almost $2 billion annually to maintain your embassy. Reports the Post:

Although the United States is reducing the scope of its diplomatic engagements in Iraq, U.S. officials anticipate that security expenses will contribute to the higher cost of running the embassy over the next couple of years. American officials project that the embassy will need more than $1.8 billion each year in 2010 and 2011, compared with this year's estimated $1.5 billion budget, according to the inspector general.

Iraq was a tragic mistake from the start. The U.S. should never have invaded. Having invaded, the U.S. never should have sent over a bevy of 20-year-olds to try to run Iraq's economy, recreate Iraq's government, and rewrite Iraq's legal code.

Having sent kids in to run Iraq, the U.S. should not have attempted to create permanent bases for use to intervene elsewhere in the region. Having failed in all these ways, the U.S. should have embraced the Iraqi determination to ensure an American exit.

Will Iraq "fail" if America leaves? Perhaps so: violence, punctuated by renewed bombing, remains high; the political environment remains more authoritarian than liberal; the gulf between religious and other factions remains huge; both sides in an incipient civil war, Sunni and Shia, remain well-armed (by the U.S.); minorities, such as Christians, remain at risk.

But there's no reason to believe that a continued U.S. presence can prevent failure. To the contrary, Washington's involvement relieves Iraqis of responsibility for their own affairs and creates another source of antagonism while turning American military personnel into targets. And U.S. officials have demonstrated little ability in the nation-building department. In Iraq it is Washington's multiple mistakes that have yielded today's explosive situation. In this regard, at least, the U.S. government has demonstrated a reverse "Midas touch" of sorts.

The future of Iraqi is up to the Iraqis. It's time to bring home U.S. forces.