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Full Circle


So, it has come full circle. The new U.S. military policy in Iraq, described recently in The New York Times, will arm and empower the very elements of Iraqi society that were the chief targets of the original invasion. It isn't surprising -- what, after all, could be surprising at this stage of the unfolding catastrophe? -- but the plan is shocking nevertheless. One would be hard-pressed to conjure up a more naked portrayal of desperation. A military machine that began this adventure with a near-perfect two-week sweep across Iraq, cheered on by a president who declared "Mission Accomplished" four years, one month, and ten days ago, is now twisting slowly in the wind.

Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, you may recall, needed to be swept away, and that part of the mission was indeed accomplished. And then it was on to the fruits of our labor: democracy would quickly ensue, as quickly as the departure of U.S. troops from the battlefield. Iraq's democracy would then light freedom's fire throughout the Middle East, and the region -- the world! -- would be, well, reborn.

There was more: al Qaeda had to be denied a toe-hold in Iraq. Having already conspired with Saddam to produce 9/11, as you doubtless recall, Iraq could not, at all costs, become a training ground for al Qaeda forces intent on perfecting their fiendish skills.

That was then. Now, al Qaeda -- still pinching itself in gratitude for the opportunities presented by the U.S. invasion -- has forced the Americans into an alliance with its enemies of yesterday. And our allies of yesterday -- the Shiites who sought deliverance from the Sunnis who had ruled them for so long -- now gape at the latest iteration of that famous dictum: the friend of my enemy is my enemy.

Who knows this better than Moktada al Sadr? What must Prime Minister al Maliki be thinking? What about the Sunni sheiks in al Anbar province who, fed up with al Qaeda's treachery, are cooperating, for now, with the Americans and who thus become the momentary beneficiaries of the new plan? That's today. What about tomorrow? And what about the American soldier who, even before this latest development, could not distinguish between friend and enemy? Who could?

And then what about that other dynamic, the one having nothing to do with Sunni or Shia or al Qaeda? Surely you must recall our very closest friends in Iraq, the Kurds. And surely you must remember our closest friends in the region, the Turks. Surely you must have noticed our two closest friends spiraling toward their own calamity.

It brings to mind another famous dictum: with friends like us, who needs enemies?