If the United States leaves, the central government in Iraq will collapse, and the beneficiaries will be Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda, the three major terrorist actors in the world today. It would not just be a psychological victory but also a territorial one. Al-Qaeda would gain a base in Mesopotamia; Syria and Iran would share spheres of influence in what's left of the Iraqi state.It strikes me that given the current conditions, we have already given a significant victory to the bad guys. Syria and Iran already have significant sphere's of influence in Iraq - both in and out of the government - and given that there is no police control of the country Al-Qaeda can use Iraq almost as if it were a full-blown sanctuary (as they recently won in Pakistan - that stout ally in the War on Terror who wont arrest bin Laden). Staying in Iraq makes only one thing easier: blowing up terrorists whenever we find them. But it seems to me that from a base in Kurdistan that could just as easily be accomplished. Even if things went as well in Iraq as the neoconservative fantasy world imagines they could, we'd still have suffered 20,000 casualties in order to install a pro-Iranian "Democracy," which has a heavy coloring of de facto theocracy. And who does the theocratic tendencies lionize as leader? Why, it's the bad-Ayatollah!
Here's the bit where he acknowledges the current civil war.
Let me clue you in, Charles, because the "civil war" debate was never about the reality on the ground. The war supporters have argued against Iraq being in a state of civil war so vociferously because to acknowledge the civil war is to lose the war the American people are interested in fighting. If the prominent war supporters start saying publicly what Krauthammer is now saying, they'll find themselves alone in the room very quickly. You think support for the war is low now? Imagine how low it would drop if the conventional wisdom was that our troops are in the middle of a civil war. The thinking goes something like this: "If the Iraqis don't give a damn about their country, then why should we be dying for it? Screw 'em." My libertarian leaning conservative friends began adopting that position back in June. Give the general Republican a little push from the term "civil war," and there'll be a stampede to the "Screw 'em" position.
It is a serious argument from which we have been distracted during the past several months by the increasingly absurd debate over the meaning of the term "civil war," and whether Iraq is in one.
Of course it is. It began when the Sunni minority, unwilling to accept the finality of the Baathist defeat, began making indiscriminate war on the Kurdish-Shiite majority that had inherited the country as a result of the U.S. invasion.