I realized even before I decided to make this posting that probably every amateur political scientist and activist in the blogosphere has already commented on this subject in more coherent, eloquent, and informative manners than I am able. But you may not have read theirs, so it is with my two or three cents that you are stuck, my friend.
It has been reported that President Bush and his administration (read "cronies," or "The Borg") will unveil on Wednesday a New Plan for Iraq, one that will start us out on the Road To Peace, that will Win Hearts And Minds, Preserve Freedom, and accomplish all kinds of other capitalized objectives towards which we've been working for close to a term and a half now.
The details of the plan have not been disclosed as of yet, but it has been strongly hinted that deployment of ground forces will continue, most likely in numbers that will escalate beyond the usual 20,000 troops per...per...oh, I don't know, per whim or something like that. Never mind that despite, or perhaps because of, the increasing amounts of troops (and the amounts are certainly increasing; compare regular deployments of 20,000 to a total of 3,021 confirmed dead since March of 2003) have coincided with a gradual escalation of violence.
Never mind also that the Army and Marine Corps numbers are being stretched too thin for comfort. The Army's on-standby brigade of around 4,000 soldiers (from the 82nd Airborne) has already left for Kuwait, meaning that another will have to take its place (credit: MSNBC.com). These days, voluntary enrollment in the armed forces is at a low point (anybody know why? hands? Bueller? Bueller?), and the amount of readily available brigades has dwindled significantly. That translates into recycling of already-enlisted soldiers, which in turn for them means longer war-zone hours, shortened spans of time back home, and less than twelve months to regroup and re-train between tours. That, says Army Chief of Staff General Peter J. Schoomaker, is a "red line" that we do not need to cross.
Now let's give credit where credit is due; that is not all there is to the plan, though the other part is hardly encouraging to anyone who has really been following this conflict. Apparently the plan's piece de resistance (literally, "piece of resistance") calls for the creation, pretty much from scratch, mind you, of a national reconciliation government that will theoretically bring together the two primary Kurdish parties, the two primary Shiite parties, and the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party. Hopefully, if some success is had on the bureaucratic level, then Moqtada al-Shadr, the powerful Shiite militia leader and head of a group that holds 30 seats and 5 cabinet posts in Iraq's house, can be marginalized and some of his potency sucked away.
Other aspects of the plan involve amending the constitution to address Sunni concerns, short-term work programs to clean up military-secured neighborhoods, and rebuilding of small businesses. The latter is something that was attempted a couple of years back under a free market plan, a boner if there ever was one by the Bush administration, seeing as how Iraq was ready neither then nor now for such a drastic alteration in its economy, or lack thereof. The free market pretext has apparantly been scrapped, so we'll just have to see.
Before I move on, let me get this out of the way: beating a dead horse; banging your head against a wall; adding fuel to the fire; spinning wheels; going in circles; chicken with its head cut off; lost in translation; lab experiment gone wrong. Email me with your own.
Discussing whether or not we belonged there in the first place is at this point irrelevant. Everyone by now has some vague idea of what we should have done; the issue now is what to do today. The fact of the matter is that, in our quest to nation-build (something that George Washington, over 200 years ago, had the foresight to warn us against), we have contributed more to the decline of a nation than it's previous dictatorship had. More importantly than that, we are destroying lives, both of Americans and Iraqis. Our involvement has spawned an all-out civil war from mere (if you can call it that) civil conflict, and given birth to war atrocities both told and untold.
Bush and his cohorts can simply not get it through their heads that Iraq is not America; it is not a democratic nation (strictly speaking, neither are we, but that's a topic for later), and cannot be treated as such. The loyalties of the Iraqi people are not national but strictly regional and religious.
Meanwhile, while the government and armed forces continue to blindfold themselves and throw darts at a Peace Plan board, staunch advocates of the war hide behind yellow ribbons, "Support Our Troops!" bumper stickers, and fabricated horror stories of nuclear strikes by al-Quaida.
What is the answer? I admit I do not know; if you do, I wish you'd give somebody a call. We are losing credibility as a nation and as a people; we believe ourselvs to be an 800-pound gorilla, when in reality we are a twelve-year-old with a chemistry set, Army Men, and a need for Ritalin. This should be fun.