Monday, June 18, 2007

The Long View in Iraq

New York Times: By Roger Cohen (IHT)

The Iraqi conflict is going to be with us for years if not decades. The country has become the focus of a crisis of Islamic civilization that is closer to its onset than its conclusion. Violent conflict between the now dominant Shiite community and Sunnis nostalgic for power is but one aspect of this epochal upheaval.

As in the Palestinian territories, the Iraqi struggle has been complicated by the presence of forces driven not by national goals but by the global objectives of jihadist Islamism. These jihadists, finding inspiration in their reading of the sacred texts of Islam, have embarked on a holy war against the West. ...

"We are not talking about a civil war, but a series of civil wars," Lamani said.

These wars - bringing together global, religious, regional and national struggles - should be seen as facets of the crisis of Islamic civilization.

The United States is a big country at the apogee of its power. But there are historical forces that even very big countries cannot stop. At best, they can be contained - and it is to containment that President George W. Bush must now look. He should have the courage to admit his mistakes, but also to resist calls for complete withdrawal driven more by electoral calculus than concern for Iraqis. ...

I see four core American interests in Iraq that cannot be abandoned. There must be no Afghan-like Al Qaeda takeover of wide areas. There must be no genocide (say a Shiite sweep against Sunnis). There must be no regional conflagration (for example, a Turkish invasion). And there must be no return to the old order (murderous Stalinist dictatorship).

To ensure this, the United States must keep a military presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future. ...

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