Sometimes it's hard not to just sound flat-out depressed about Iraq. For all our plans and efforts (half-assed though they may be), there's the ever-present feeling that Iraq is slowly but surely slipping out of our grasp, and that eventually it's going to fall through completely and we won't even realize it until after we've lost it, if we haven't already. Even as our forces institute a plan to bring Baghdad under control, we hear that the situation there is even worse than it was before the new security operation went into effect and that thousands of Iraqis died in the last month of conflict alone, in the suicide bombings, the attacks or the reprisal shootings, or at the hands of criminals. Now there's some talk of sending Kurdish forces into Baghdad to help patrol the capitol, but at the same time Kenneth Pollack, in testimony before a House subcommittee, says that there probably needs to be at least 200,000 Iraqi forces, if not double that, to begin to provide meaningful security across the country-side. At present, less than 100,000 are currently capable of operating in the field.
So what's next? Who really knows? There are good signs here and there. Zarqawi is dead, the Sunnis have reportedly turned on the foreign jihadists to some extent, and now the Sunnis in greater numbers seem to want us to stay to protect them. But at the same time, the violence between Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias grows worse everyday, our forces our reportedly clashing with Shiite militias that want free reign to beat on the Sunnis, and the Iraqi national government remains compromised by militias and insurgents both. And with numbers of casualties like the one above, it's impossible to argue that Iraq is not currently experiencing some sort of "low-grade" (I use the term almost sarcastically) civil war.
More and more people are calling for withdrawal. I just can't bring myself to do it yet, because I can't stop thinking about what's going to happen to Iraq if even our admittedly inadequate forces leave. But I'm not stupid, and even as the Bush administration insists that we're going to stay for as long as it takes, even as we continue to hear about rumors of permanent bases, we also know that the people in charge can read the writing on the wall (and the disapproval of their allies) and are implementing plans to get our soldiers out of Iraq whether or not Iraqis are ready to "stand up", if only so that Bush can claim some kind of victory in time for mid-term elections, or the next presidential election, or in time for his date with the history books (which will not be kind, however Iraq turns out.) And more and more Americans who supported the invasion, feeling something like "buyer's remorse" (for buying into the Bush administration's absurd justifications and scenarios for Iraq) are thinking that it's best to cut our losses and get out. Whether the next president is Democratic or Republican, he (or she) will have no choice but to listen to those voices.
Update: Also be sure to check out Phillip Robertson's excellent three-part series over at Salon.com for what life is really like in Baghdad under the rule of the militias. You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.