The stated goals for “victory in Iraq” make no sense. Should the goal of Americans and other Infidels be to create a functioning state (with cigars passed around for the final birth of a happy, healthy, baby boy, after such a difficult pregnancy)? In any case this is impossible, with Allawi or Jaafari or Maliki or anyone at all, given that Islam itself is what prevents compromises and encourages continued aggression between Sunni and Shi’a. Both have taken from Islam the lesson that there can only be, after any conflict, only two possible conditions: that of Victor and that of Vanquished.
“Victory in Iraq” properly defined means a situation that justifies the expenditure of some $880 billion dollars (including in that figure the lifetime cost of care for the wounded veterans, and other expenses not yet factored in even by those, such as General MacCaffrey, who are critics of the war but inattentive to the real cost). That is more than the cost of all the wars, save World War II, that the United States has ever fought, in 2007 dollars. It must also justify the deaths of 3,700 soldiers and the severe wounding of 25,000. Bush’s notion that the outcome of a unified Iraq is a better one for the United States than one in which Sunnis and Shi’a, at one level or another, continue to fight, is unfounded. Who knows? Who can predict exactly how they will or will not handle one another once the Americans leave? What’s more, who can say what will happen when co-religionists on both sides line up behind their fellows in Iraq? That means primarily Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Sunnis cheerfully waved off by the Alawite rulers of Syria, on the Sunni side, and on the Shi’a side, the grim Islamic Republic of Iran, with its Al Quds Revolutionary Guards, and of course its handmaidens in Hizballah, whom all kinds of sensible people in Lebanon would love to see stream off as volunteers, screaming their devotion to Allah, to Iraq to defend their own faith from those terrible Sunnis.
And in the same way, would not greater Kurdish autonomy, or ideally a Kurdish state, be a threat to Iran? For it would hearten not only Kurds in Iranian-held parts of Kurdistan, but others in the area — Arabs in Khuzistan, Baluchis to the east, Azeris in the north — to bethink themselves, to wonder if they too, the non-Persians who make up half the population of present-day Iran, must forever be subject to the Islamic Republic of Iran. And another potential threat is to Syria. As for Turkey, the Americans could make clear that Turkey is no longer regarded as an indispensable ally, or even conceivably a reliable member of NATO, to the extent that it “returns to Islam” (as it is, steadily, day by day, under the guiding hand of Erdogan and many little erdogans), but that, in any case, the Americans will act as guarantors to insure that whatever pressures from this Kurdish state are made on Iran, or Syria, no such pressure will be put on Turkey, for the Americans, as the sole suppliers of military aid to Kurdistan, can guarantee their cooperation. And furthermore, it can hardly have gone unnoticed that economic cooperation between Turkey and Kurdistan is already in the works, and that the Turkish government might take an entirely different view of an independent Kurdistan, as not increasing outside pressure on it, but serving to decrease it — for if Kurds in Turkey feel that they need an outlet for political expression other than the Turkish state, they are now welcome to move to an independent Kurdistan, and for all we know, some might take up the offer. And I have not even reached here the emulative effect the spectacle of one non-Arab Muslim people, the Kurds, throwing off the Arab yoke, would have on other non-Arab Muslims, such as the Berbers.
Finally, along with the sectarian (Sunni-Shi’a) division inside and outside Iraq, there are possible further unsettlements and sectarian strife in Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia (the oil-bearing Eastern Province), in Lebanon, in Bahrain, even in Yemen. Instead of being welcomed — since when does one attempt to prevent division and demoralization in the camp of one’s enemies? — these are actively being deplored, in warnings from the Great and Good, that an American withdrawal will bring, could bring, might bring, that deplorable thing called “chaos” to the Middle East. Nonsense. Not “chaos” — not with those kinds of despotisms willing to use their kind of force with their kind of secret police. Not chaos, really, but perhaps a using up of men, money, and materiel, and attention — but this time they would all bear the initial adjective “Muslim” rather than “American,” and that is a highly desirable change.