I was thinking on the airplane today about how to categorize our current situation in Iraq. Its hard to draw exact conclusions about where we are there, because I don't think anyone is giving the whole story. I am willing to believe that we have done a better job than the media has portrayed of rebuilding infrastructure and schools and wells and all that stuff, though at a horrendous cost. I am also willing to believe that the Bush administration is downplaying crucial problems of factionalism and tribalism that they grossly underestimated before getting involved there.
My fear is that we have turned Iraq into a big dead man's switch, with the US army's finger on the button to keep things from blowing. My fear, and I think a lot of people share it, is that as soon as we leave, and take our finger off that figurative switch, the whole place is going to blow up. And, to overextend the metaphor, I can't see what the US is doing or can do to disarm the thing. Its a lose-lose, as far as I can see, with a costly long-term occupation leaving us open to the "imperialism" meme on one hand, and reduced long-term credibility on the other, with a pull-out letting future allies and enemies alike know that there is a point at which we give up. Its back to the old Wargames conclusion: "Strange game -- the only winning move is not to play."