Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, writing in The National Interest, notes that although rising Iraqi nationalism might help "heal the rifts between Sunni and Shia," it also might exacerbate relations with the Kurdish semi-state in northern Iraq, where control of much oil and the city of Kirkuk is being contested.
The militia parties that ruled Iraq from 2003 to 2007 remain, Pollack says, the major political parties, although mostly without militias. They "still bribe and extort," "assassinate and kidnap," "steal and vandalize" and try to prevent the emergence of new political parties that are "more secular, more democratic, more representative, less corrupt and less violent." If they succeed and "America is forced out," Pollack says, "the glimmers of democracy will fade and Iraq will be lost again." But if democracy is still just a glimmer that will be extinguished by the withdrawal of a protective U.S. presence, its extinction can perhaps be delayed for two more years but cannot be prevented.
The 2008 U.S.-Iraq security agreement must be submitted to a referendum by the Iraqi people. If they reject it, U.S. forces must leave the country in a year. Pollack believes that if Maliki pushes to hold the referendum in January, coinciding with the national elections, the agreement will become the campaign issue and will indicate that Maliki wants U.S. forces removed in order to enlarge his freedom of action. The United States should treat this as a Dirty Harry Moment: Make our day.
Many scholars believe, Pollack says, that nations which suffer civil wars as large as Iraq's was between 2004 and 2006 have "a terrifyingly high rate of recidivism." Two more years of U.S. military presence cannot control whether that is in Iraq's future. Some people believe the war in Iraq was not only "won" but vindicated by the success of the 2007 U.S. troop surge. Yet as Iraqi violence is resurgent, the logic of triumphalism leads here:
If, in spite of contrary evidence, the U.S. surge permanently dampened sectarian violence, all U.S. forces can come home sooner than the end of 2011. If, however, the surge did not so succeed, U.S. forces must come home sooner.