The President's favored strategy - the Pentagon's Go Big Strategy - where we add 30,000+ troops to Iraq, may include a provision for an exit strategy. I am confident it will, since they agree on the reality of the Go Long Plan, which acknowledges the fact that in the long term, continued deployment at this level drains the Armed Services prohibitively.
There's only one reason to surge troops into Baghdad, and it gets repeated again and again on the cable news shows: to provide enough security and stability so that Maliki can "go after the Shiite Militias." How would Maliki "go after" these militias, if the militias themselves represent the lion's share of his military power? Obviously, he cannot, so what can "going after the militias" mean? Well, with the militias and army out, that leaves the task to the American military, who will surge into "targeted neighborhoods." One of these neighborhoods is certainly Sadr City, where we would hope to rescue our captive soldier, amongst other things.
While rescuing our soldier would be worthy of celebration, the consequences could be significant. We have yet to encounter a Shiite insurgency in the country, with direct attacks on our forces coming mainly from the Sunni minority. By attacking the Shiites, we may provoke them into open hostility.
Sadr City is in the northeast part of Baghdad, and is home to over a million Shiites. The graphic below illustrates one of the problems:
The image above shows Sadr City in the upper right, and the Green Zone outlined in white across the river. You can't see the measuring tool, but it's only a little more than 3km away - mortar range. Given that they are they guys that could be allied with Iran, I wonder how many mortars they can put in the air at once, raining down on our "secure facilities" in the Green Zone.
Also, the supply lines our 140,000 men and women depend on run, poorly defended, through the midst of the Shiite south. With a Shiite backlash, we could have an unprecedented level of danger for our troops. The situation could make Operation Frequent Wind from Saigon look like a leisurely stroll.
This demonstrates the crucial thing to remember when devising a "plan" for Iraq: the choice we have is not between the status quo and withdrawal. Things could always get worse. It's not a situation where goofing around, trying different half-baked strategies is acceptable, since by doing so you are assuring the deaths of our troops. It's a volatile situation, and if we stand no chance of containing it or policing it, we should get out of the way, as horrible as that sounds. We all would have much rather have seen the Utopian fantasy-land outcome the neoconservatives sold as inevitable. But continuing to have our troops die for failure is the height of immorality.