As we approach the one-year anniversary of the day the US "transferred" sovereignty to Iraq, it seems like a good time to stop and consider the entire Iraq enterprise. Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is in the US this week to try to rally the troops (ours, that is) in the face of flagging poll numbers, hoping to keep the US engaged long enough to bring some sense of stability. Some Democrats are demanding a pull-out, and even some Republicans are asking for a timeline. Meanwhile, in a case of poor spin or delusion, Dick Cheney is busily ignoring reality and declaring the insurgency is in its last throes.
The facts are indeed grim: even while we spend billions a year, the violence in Iraq worsens. Over 1700 Americans have been killed (dozens from or with connections to Oregon), and something on the order of 25,000 - 100,000 Iraqis have been killed. The political situation is far from stable, as Kurds, Shi'ites, and Sunnis jockey for control. Yesterday, American commander John Abizaid declared that, far from being in its last throes, the insurgency is at least as strong as it was six months ago, and there are more foreign fighters in Iraq now. Whatever Iraq was before the US invasion, it now is the locus of terror in the Middle East. To combat all of this, the US has had to dig deeper and deep into its Army reserves, and now the specter of a draft looms.
But just because things are going badly doesn't mean withdrawal is the answer. It is politically expedient to demand withdrawal, but is it the wise course? Is the US morally committed to an Iraqi populace that must deal with the aftermath of our invasion? What responsibility does the international community have to help ensure Iraq doesn't descend into civil war? Liberals who didn't want the war in the first place now have it--what should our position be? It's clear that the one-year anniversary of Iraqi sovereignty will not be greeted with peace. Where do we go from here?