I think I’ve got an idea of how to extricate ourselves from Iraq. It might not be a good idea, but I think it’s better than Bush’s current plan:
First, draft orders for immediate and complete withdrawal, as fast as possible. If you gotta leave some equipment behind, so be it. Get them complete and initialed, to the point where a single presidential signature will start the process. Make it as few pages as possible, for the President to carry around. I’m calling this the sword of Solomon document;
Get all the regional powers together, everyone with an interest other than chaos. Exclude those who would profit by chaos. Their interests may conflict, but none of them will be happy with the hell-in-a-handbasket scenario. There are those who would be happy with that: don’t invite them. Include Syria, Iran, the Saudis, Turkey, Jordan, the Kuwaitis, and all the appropriate internal players: al-Maliki, al-Sistani, and so forth;
Threaten them with the document. “We are leaving. We can leave now, or we can leave later. The choice is yours. You have x number of weeks to make a deal. If at any point, I lose faith that you are going to come up with something that will be stable, lasting, and as just as we can manage for all concerned, including the Sunnis, I will sign this, and we will let you people deal with the mess.”
“We’ll work with you. We’ll provide support for peaceful directions. But we have to move in accordance with the patience of the American people, and we also have to do our best by all of the Iraqi people.
“And we have to deal with the realities of spheres of influence that will interact over time here. Better to be up-front and diplomatic now than shedding blood in the shadows for years to come.
“If partition is the direction of history, then so be it. Those who want a unified Iraq have to stand up for it, now. This is probably your last stand.”
It would require balls, and statesmanship–if the next president does have to sign the Sword document he/she will have to answer to the American people for $100/barrel oil. But you know, the president serving from 2008-2012 will probably be a one-termer anyway, so they might as well step up.