The war in Iraq was supposed to create the conditions for a regional realignment. It was supposed to create a new, an American Middle East, proving America's power and global leadership and thereby guaranteeing America and the West lasting security in the face of the new terrorist threat. Today, we're farther removed from that than ever. (...)
Unfortunately, US policy in Iraq today has stalled entirely. Instead of bringing about regional realignment, the US is using its strength to create a power vacuum, and thus prevent a civil war. Such a civil war is, however, becoming more likely every day. If, in 2003, everything suggested that this US war was a mistake, then today, the arguments against a US retreat in Iraq are at least as strong. But the situation is even worse, since every day that US troops remain in Iraq will only aggravate rather than solve this crisis -- a crisis that is headed for civil war. (...)
The question is whether the majority of US citizens were ever really prepared to pay the very high military, political, economic, and moral cost for such an imperial enterprise, and to pay for it over a long period of time. We know today that the answer is "No." But such a negative answer was already to be expected in 2002 and 2003, and would have been the starting point if the actual reason for the war had been placed at the center of the domestic debate in the US. (....)
The battle against terrorism was one of the main arguments for the war in Iraq, but this argument has transformed into its opposite. If the al-Qaida terror network was on the defensive after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, this situation has been reversed since the war in Iraq. For international jihad terrorism, Iraq has historically taken on the same mobilizing function that the Islamic and national resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan had in the 1980s. Then, it was Pakistan that became the main beneficiary of the Afghan power vacuum; in today's Iraq, that role falls to Iran.
Likewise, Rami G. Khouri, editor-at-large of The Daily Star in Beirut, expresses the anger of many Arabs against "Western armies that regularly march into our lands to deliver modernity through the muzzle of a French musket or the barrel of an M-1 tank", but then foster ethnic, religious and tribal violence rather than build democracy. Writing for Newsweek, he sums up what is currently going wrong in Iraq:
Since the U.S. so far failed to deliver its pomises for Iraq, Rami G. Khouri concludes: "Secular democrats and human-rights activists throughout the region, who should be natural partners with Washington on political reform in such places as Syria, Egypt, Bahrain and Iran, now mostly shun American support as fatally radioactive."
Along with more than 2,300 American dead and more than 4,150 Iraqi police and army personnel, the best independent estimates say that somewhere around 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the country's many confrontations among U.S. and British troops, Iraqi state military forces, the indigenous resistance and terrorists drawn to Iraq from elsewhere. Every new governing body installed in Baghdad since April 2003 enjoys increasingly less impact outside the fortifications of the Green Zone in Baghdad.
A once unified national state has fragmented into an essentially independent Kurdish statelet in the north and strongly decentralized regions in the rest of the country. Once mixed ethnic neighborhoods are unraveling at a brisk pace. Petty crime and organized kidnappings haunt much of the land. Many of the best professional minds in the country are emigrating to neighboring lands at every available opportunity.
The most important government posts at the Defense, Foreign and Interior ministries remain unfilled due to political discord among the main factions. The key aspects of the much-ballyhooed national Constitution—unity, federalism, provincial powers, control of oil resources, the role of militias, relations with neighbors, the role of Islam—remain vague and unresolved. Even the single most powerful group, the majority Shiites who dominate the Parliament and the government, disagree about crucial issues related to their own powers and alliances, let alone issues of national unity, and they all have well-armed militias to back up their political leaders.