But how does shrinking the U.S. military power and presence in Iraq advance any of these goals?
Longtime critics of the war like Gen. William Odom say it is already lost, and fighting on will only further bleed the country and make the ultimate price even higher. The general may be right in saying it is time to cut our losses. But we should take a hard look at what those losses may be.
It is a near certainty the U.S.-backed government will fall and those we leave behind will suffer the fate of our Vietnamese and Cambodian friends in 1975. As U.S. combat brigades move out, contractors, aid workers and diplomats left behind will be more vulnerable to assassination and kidnapping. There could be a stampede for the exit and a Saigon ending in the Green Zone.
The civil and sectarian war will surely escalate when we go, with Iran aiding its Shia allies and Sunni nations aiding the Sunnis. A breakup of the country seems certain. Al-Qaida will claim it has run the U.S. superpower out of Iraq and take the lessons it has learned to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The Turks, with an army already on the border, will go in to secure their interests in not having the Kurdish PKK operating from Iraq and in guaranteeing there is no independent Kurdistan. What will America do then?
As for this country, the argument over who is responsible for the worst strategic debacle in American history will be poisonous.
With a U.S. defeat in Iraq, U.S. prestige would plummet across the region. Who will rely on a U.S. commitment for its security? Like the British and French before us, we will be heading home from the Middle East.
What we are about to witness is how empires end.